AR Philosophy > Legalities

Steven Wise leans to the lectern.
"I don't see a difference between a  chimpanzee," he says, "and my 4 1/2- year-old son."

 At Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington , D.C. , last month, about  40 people came to hear Wise make  his controversial case for extending legal rights to some animals, the  argument he lays out in his new  book, "Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights" 

(Perseus Publishing). 


 Here is the unedited letter that was sent to the Boston Globe. (The  text in  caps was deleted in the  letter published on June 9th.) Wise's  categorization of species is particularly problematic.

 Regarding "Between the Lines: The line that divides human from animal"  by  Robin Dougherty, May 26, 2002 , D4:

 Exciting as attorney Steven Wise's challenge is to the existing  cultural  status of nonhuman animals, his critics are not confined to those who  exploit animals. Many of us in the animal advocacy movement reject  Wise's  elitist categories in which nonhuman animals are patronizingly ranked  according to whether or not they possess "practical autonomy" and other  abstract qualities entitling them to "liberty rights." This hierarchy  reduces the majority of earth's creatures to the level of human  infanthood  and mental re tar dation.

 Do we really believe that the mentally intact, functioning adult  members of  other species are comparable to the least competent members of human  society? Could a group of unaided three-year-old children create a  workable  society comparable to that of chimpanzees in their natural habitat? FOR  THE  PAST TWO WEEKS I'VE BEEN WATCHING A FERAL HEN SHEPHERD, TEACH, AND  DILIGENTLY OVERSEE THE WELFARE OF HER NINE CHICKS OUTSIDE OUR FENCED  YARD IN  THE SURROUNDING WOODS. SHE EXHIBITS "PRACTICAL AUTONOMY" IN A WAY THAT  NO  THREE-YEAR OLD CHILD COULD BEGIN TO DO.

 Defending animals by denigrating them distorts the fight for justice on  their behalf. Consigning the majority of animals to the wasteland of  foregone conclusions is cruel and unjust. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO A  SENTIENCE-BASED ETHIC OR ONE THAT SEEKS TO RELIEVE THE PREVENTABLE  SUFFERING  OF THE GREATEST NUMBER OF INDIVIDUAL ANIMALS? The whole silly structure  of  "liberty rights" entitlement is more medieval than modern, and the  science  invoked to support it is prejudicially narrow and selective.

 Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely, Karen Davis, PhD President

 United Poultry Concerns, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that promotes  the  compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. For more  information, visit www.UPC-online.org .