An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of March 14, 2004
Issued from the woods just west of Natchez, Mississippi, USA

THOUGHTS ABOUT ANIMAL RIGHTS

The other day Newsletter subscriber Marian in Nevada wrote asking if she could quote me on her Animal Rights Forum. That got me to thinking about what I believe on the matter, and why.

To decide any complex, important question, we need to root our thinking in some kind of belief system -- such as religion, a society's codes of ethics, scientific data, or legal systems. On the question of animal rights I define my own belief system as "The way the Creator appears to have put the Universe together." In other words, "Nature is Bible." Here's how that can work:

In Nature, things aren't wasted, but are recycled, so for me it becomes a "sacred duty" to practice strict economy in my own life. Wastefulness is "bad." Similarly, in Nature it's clear that life evolved from one or a very few simple, isolated, living things to untold numbers of complex, interacting and mutually dependent beings. Therefore, in my own life I must struggle toward ever more sophisticated, multi-faceted insights and modes of behavior, and be communicative with and helpful to the communities of which I am part. Laziness, self indulgence and an acceptance of mediocrity are "sinful."

In terms of animal rights, it strikes me that on Earth the Creator's crowning achievement is the Web of Life, or the Earth ecosphere. In the Web of Life, no group of organisms is more highly developed than animals, and the most highly developed animal is the human.

What do I FEEL when I reflect on the subject of animals in this context? The insight that moves me most profoundly is that we animals are very beautiful creations. Beholding such beauty and realizing that I am part of it, my feelings blossom into the domain of spirituality. Therefore, my awe for animals is rooted in the realms of esthetics and spirituality.

In that context, my feeling for animal life only can be described as reverential. Irreverently treating animal life "goes against God's will." The term "rights" is too legalistic for me. If one is reverential toward animals, the question of their "rights" just won't come up.

Everyone has his or her own choice about which belief system or systems are appropriate for thinking about animal life, and the same is true for drawing conclusions based on those systems. Still, it seems to me that the first important step for anyone considering "animal rights" should be to become crystal clear about which belief system is being used, and to ask himself or herself whether that system is appropriate. Facebook Icon.