Princeton University ethicist Peter Singer recently told a Washington, D.C. audience that Judeo-Christian teaching promotes “speciesism” because it creates “a very negative influence on the way in which we think about animals.” It should hardly be surprising that Singer has spouted this idiocy, because this particular university professor is known to support killing certain infants for a short period after birth (until a child is “aware of himself in the world”) and favours euthanasia for the sick, infirm and elderly – perhaps even mandatory euthanasia so as not to waste valuable resources on people who are going to die anyway. Last year, Singer endorsed bestiality, as long as one does not physically harm the creature – although, since he is a founder of the animal rights movement, we wonder how he deals with the issue of consent.
Singer’s latest inflammatory and anti-Christian rhetoric about animal rights notwithstanding, his ideas resonate with a certain segment of the animal rights crowd who have an animosity against human beings and human nature.
Singer and his ilk suggest there should be the narrowest legal gap between humans and animals. The Ottawa Citizen editorializes that, “Biologically, of course, the gap between humans and the higher animals is narrow,” but the radical animal rights movement fails to consider the dignity of the human being. For people of faith – including those Jews and Christians Singer criticizes – that means recognizing we are created in the image of God. For the classical philosophers, it meant recognizing that, physically as well as metaphorically, man stands on two legs; it is human civilization – not the animal kingdom – that has created not mere tools for survival (as the chimpanzee does), but democracy and freedom as well. To build on Singer’s definition of what it means to be fully human, we can say that only man is fully aware of himself and of his place in the world.
It is because of our inherent higher nature relative to animals – as well as the fact that we are aware of our place in the world and the necessity to be humane – that animals don’t have rights while people have responsibilities. We have the responsibility to not be cruel to animals. We must be good stewards of the earth, including all living creatures. But this doesn’t mean animals should enjoy any legal rights.