Animal Rights

PETA knows no end to their antics.  They are known for their “holocaust on a plate” and naked celebrity “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaigns.  Now they are suing to free five killer whales from Sea world on the grounds that they are persons, and should be protected by the 13th Amendment’s prohibition against slavery.  According to one of PETA’s lawyers, Jeff Kerr, “By any definition, these orcas are slaves – kidnapped from their homes, kept confined, denied everything that’s natural to them and forced to perform tricks for SeaWorld’s profit.  The males have their sperm collected, the females are artificially inseminated and forced to bear young which are sometimes shipped away.”

If the court grants these whales personhood, then I hope authorities will immediately arrest one of the whales, Tilikum, for murder.  After all, we have video footage of him dragging a Sea World trainer under water in 2010, and held her there until she drowned.  And this wasn’t his first victim.  He killed two other people as well.  Tilikum is a mass-murderer, and I believe justice should be served.  What would a jail cell look like for a whale?  It would have to be small and full of water.  Hey, Sea World sounds like an ideal place for that.

UPDATE: On February 8, 2012 a federal judge in San Diego dismissed this lawsuit.

PETA president, Ingrid Newkirk, is famous for having said, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”  And now Wesley Smith will become famous for using that disturbing line as the title for his new book exposing the radical nature of the animal rights movement Ms. Newirk et al represent.

I have not read Smith’s book yet, but I have followed his blog for a long time, and have found his thoughts on this topic to be excellent.  Smith argues that humans are exceptional among animals, not just another animal on the farm.  Human dignity belongs to all humans in virtue of their identity as humans.  While animals are valuable and should be treated humanely, they are not the moral equivalents to human beings, and treating them as such does more to demean human dignity than to elevate animal dignity.

Smith pointed his readers to a review of his book that I found helpful and on-target.  I wanted to recommend it to you, as well as share a few teaser quotes:


PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) people typically oppose the idea of human exceptionalism: that humans are qualitatively different from, and qualitatively superior to animals.  Such thinking explains their ad campaigns like “Holocaust on a Plate,” in which they compare eating chicken to the extermination of Jews by Hitler.  While PETA people may deny human exceptionalism with their lips—and often with their deeds—I would venture to say that most of them do not truly believe humans and animals are morally equivalent.

I came up with a question you can ask a PETA person that will either help them see that they don’t really believe humans and animals are moral equals, or help you expose their moral confusion for what it is.  Ask him/her, “Do you believe it is ok to sell a dog?”  If they say no, then they really do believe in the moral equivalence of humans and animals.  My guess, however, is that most will say yes.  If they do, proceed to ask them, “Do you believe it is ok to sell people?”  If they say no, then they haven’t completely abandoned the idea of human exclusivism.  In some sense they understand that humans are more valuable than animals.  Of course, they might respond with a second yes, in which case their moral sense is in worse shape than we thought!


Jonah Goldberg over at National Review Online wrote the following concerning the proposed bill in Spain:

Lord how [I] hate it when people do those DNA comparisons. I’m all for being nice to monkeys and gorillas, but please. We share a lot of the same DNA with dogs and, if memory serves, a big chunk of our DNA matches up nicely with some fruits and vegetables. What, exactly, should that tell us? We share 100% of our DNA with fetuses — as Ramesh would likely note — and yet that never seems to argue much in their favor among the crowd that wants animals to have rights.

This is a powerful argument to make when dealing with PETA people who are typically pro-animal rights and pro abortion rights.

I would add to Goldberg’s list that mice are said to 97.5% genetically similar to humans.Will the Socialist Party in Spain include them in the bill?Of course not.Clearly it’s not all in the DNA.

Turning to the evolutionary aspect of this discussion, the amount of genetic similarity between man and chimps is not surprising given the amount of morphological similarity between chimps and man (By the way, the article claims the two are 98.4% similar.Actually, it’s more like 95.2%).It’s important to understand that the genetic similarity does not mean the genes function in the same way.It is similar to the way in which authors use most of the same words and yet write radically different stories. As William Dembski wrote:

It’s like going through the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton, and finding that almost all the words and short phrases they used are identical. Such a similarity would not be surprising since what separates Shakespeare from Milton is not so much their vocabulary but how they used their vocabulary to express their thoughts. Different authors might use nearly identical sets of words. The crucial difference is in how those words are utilized in their respective contexts. The overall meaning only emerges from the way the words are put together. Likewise, two organisms might have nearly identical sets of genes, and even situate those genes in roughly the same order; and yet they can utilize those genes so differently as to produce markedly different organisms.

While the genetic alphabet of man and chimp may be the same, the way in which those letters are put together create vast differences.Consider the following to sentences:

Charles Darwin was a scientific god.

Charles Darwin was a scientific dog.

Both sentences contain the same number of letters, and in almost identical order.The slight difference, however, makes their meaning very different.The same goes for living things.The gene sequence diversion between humans and chimpanzees has been “found to have significant effects both on the amino-acid sequences of proteins and on the ways those proteins are regulated.”[1]About 20% of proteins are different between the two species.An examination of chimp and human brain cells reveals that humans have accumulated 5.5 times the changes as chimps over the same period of time.The human brains produce 31% more proteins than chimps.

Evolutionists tend to overemphasize the similarities between chimps and humans and underemphasize the differences, but the challenge of evolutionists is to explain their differences.

Physical Differences between Humans and Chimpanzees[2]

(1) The feet of chimpanzees are prehensile, in other words, their feet can grab anything their hands can. Not so for humans.

(2) Humans have a chin, apes do not.

(3) Human females experience menopause; no other primates do (the only known mammal besides humans to experience menopause is the pilot whale).

(4) Humans have a fatty inner layer of skin as do aquatic mammals like whales and hippopotamuses; apes do not.

(5) Humans are the only primate whose breasts are apparent when not nursing.

(6) Apes have a bone in their penis called a baculum (10 millimeters in chimpanzees); humans do not.

(7) Humans have a protruding nose.

(8) Humans sweat; apes do not.

(9) Humans can consciously hold their breath; apes cannot.

(10) Humans are the only primates that weep.

For humans to have come from chimps (actually it is said to be a hominid ancestor common to both man and chimps) we have to explain how 600 million base pairs in the DNA sequence were changed over a period of only 6 million years.There are only about 600,000 generations during this expanse of time, and given mutation rates we end up with a mere .6% change in DNA (and this assumes that every mutation is inheritable).This is 7x short the 4.8% genetic difference we find between man and chimps.The math simply does not add up even in optimal circumstances.

[1]William Dembski, “Reflections on Human Origins”; available from; Internet; accessed 11 January 2005.

[2]Taken from Geoffrey Simmons, What Darwin Didn’t Know (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2004), 274-278, as found in William Dembski, “Reflections on Human Origins”; available from; Internet; accessed 11 January 2005.