Flash! Animals are not people

Sometimes I think some Americans are losing their minds.

Other times I am sure of it.

The Bronx Zoo’s Happy the elephant (Photo: NBC News)

We live in a time where some people believe men can get pregnant, that math is racist, that gender can be changed like your underwear, and that a bumblebee is a fish.  

Now we have two New York state appellate judges who think an elephant is a person.

I am an elephant lover and wrote many times that the Philadelphia Zoo should send its elephants to spacious sanctuaries. That eventually happened and I covered Dulary’s 2007 arrival at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. I didn’t argue that they were people. I argued they deserved humane treatment and more space than could be provided by Philly’s zoo, with its small, urban footprint.

The current suit was brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project, a group I know and like, but it went — not for the first time — into loon legal territory to redefine “animal” and “human.”

To illustrate this with a ridiculous example, if Happy the elephant is a person, she should be allowed to vote, and — why not? — marry a human.

The group was trying to free Happy from the Bronx Zoo. 

Zoos have been around forever, and they constantly are being made better. Accredited zoos no longer take animals from the wild, they are active in breeding, saving environment, and doubtlessly provide children with a respect for animals that only the live experience can provide.

Yes, you can argue the animals are “prisoners.” But is that accurate?

Taking the Philadelphia Zoo as an example, the exhibits are large enough to permit natural behaviors. The big cats, for instance, were all born in captivity, so this is the “norm” for them. They are fed nutritious food they don’t have to hunt for, they have comfortable quarters, veterinary care and toys.

“The vast, vast majority of animals in accredited zoos are born in another zoo,” I am told by Vik Dewan, CEO of the Philly Zoo. “The only exceptions are rescues, and confiscations,:” such as animals captured while being smuggled across a border.

Let’s switch to domestic animals.

I call my dog “my boy,” but I do not call him my “son.”

I love him, I respect him, I care for him, I protect him, but as lovable as he is, he is not a “person.”

I take “my boy” for rides, but he can’t drive

He can’t have “freedom.” 

Being “free” would kill him, because he is a companion animal.  Animal, not person. He is dependent on me and his human “mom.”

That is true for the other dogs and one cat I have lived with, and been responsible for.

I stopped using the word “owner” a long time ago. I switched to the term preferred by animal advocates — guardian. That is my role with the dog I nicknamed Nut Bag. I don’t “own” him. I adopted him, he is mine to protect and spoil. 

And I do both.

I have advocated for animals for more than 25 years in my columns.

I avoid using the term “animal rights,” because it’s like waving a red cape in front of a bull, to use an animal metaphor. There are too many human animals — we are all animals, you know that, right?– who go ape shit, to use another animal metaphor, when they hear the word “rights” applied to nonhuman animals.

So I avoid it in the main, but I insist that animals deserve humane treatment. People are usually OK with that. 

So, humane treatment is the goal.

“Peoplehood” must not be. It is too ridiculous.

17 thoughts on “Flash! Animals are not people”

  1. yes-but Happy identifies as a human.That is his truth.Teams of therapists and doctors are currently injecting him with the right drugs for his future transformation.The trunk is scheduled for removal next week.And please- the name is Jason.

    Most of human animals like/love the other creatures/animals that we bring into our lives. As you’ve probably witnessed, people tend to ‘dress up’ their live in companions. If your daughter had a dog or cat way back when, I don’t doubt that the ywo ( or three ) slept together. My daughter did all of that, including painted toe nails, ribbons and clothes.
    As you know, we have a few critters that share our residence. Then there are those that just drop by to say hello, stay for a meal and then go back into their natural element. That’s why we live next to a nature preserve. We have every animal living in Chester County drop by on occasion.
    Wouldn’t want it any other way. Come to think of it. The wild and feral critters that surround us remind me of the famous ‘mother – in – law’ tale. Glad to see her come, glad to see her go.

  3. The fact that you are driven to write an article such as this shows clearly how unhinged the American people have become (not you, the oafs you are writing about).

  4. Stu, I thought you were more woke than this. Your “boy” is not a “dog,” (an incredibly demeaning and marginalizing word). He is a “Canine-American!”

    1. Since his ancestry is Tibetan, he would be Canine Tibetan-American.
      He seems to be happy with “dog.” Very happy, but I will attempt to be more woke. 😄

  5. “If you pick up a starving dog and make his prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” — Mark Twain

  6. This is actually an old idea that has not improved with age. The “seminal” work on the subject was an article that came out in 1972, “SHOULD TREES HAVE STANDING?-TOWARD LEGAL RIGHTS FOR NATURAL OBJECTS.” I wrote a paper on it in college, concluding–not in so many words–that it was dumb and unworkable. The author later expanded the article to a book, and there is whole bunch of wishful-thinking literature around it trying to refine it and make it workable. The buzz at the time was that like “Silent Spring,” it would energize the environmental movement and create a new avenue for environmental activism. Turned out, not so much–which is what makes this suit so surprising. One need only imagine a class action lawsuit such as, “Doe, a deer, on behalf herself and all other similarly situated herbivores vs. unnamed Wolf Pack, an unincorporated association, seeking a permanent injunction against its members’ predatory pattern and practice of stalking, threatening and murdering members of the class…” In other words, “animal rights” as envisioned, only exists vis a vis humans, actually resulting in people having fewer rights than animals, who are free to murder, torture (think cat and mouse), destroy property and trespass. Notice that we talk about “humane” treatment of animals, and not about how animals treat each other. Animal cruelty is awful–because we are human–and there are many laws against it. If we need more, pass them, but lets not implement an impossible and internally inconsistent way of dealing with “the problem.”

  7. My “Georgie” is a “rescue” and I never call him “my son”, but I do call him “my baby”…..a baby who’s been a great comfort to me since I lost my husband three years ago. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure last year, and I care for him as if he were my child….8 different medications, 3 times a day, every 4 months, visits to his veterinary cardiologist. I do for him what I’d do for either of my “human children”. He’s pretty much my whole world now, and i love my “baby” and do everything I can to keep him with me with a good quality to his life, as long as is “humanly possible”.

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