The Folly of Animal Rights


A cat tortures a mouse for half an hour until death stills a tiny heart, then it walks away unconcerned, leaving the sorry little corpse.  A sparrow hawk, spectacular, fierce-eyed gunship of the bird world, swoops upon a tiny bird and plucks it alive while it struggles, skewered in agony upon the hawk’s scimitar talons. These are daily events, but neither cruel nor wrong; they are merely nature at work. Nature makes only Spencer’s observation: survival of the fittest, albeit in a given time and place.  

In reality, much of nature is less of a green and pleasant land and more of huge and silent war, a place where even our national treasures, the robin redbreasts, kill each other with breath-taking determination and savagery; even the pretty, nodding wild flowers are involved in a grim survival struggle for food, water and light against their neighbours.  

Mother Nature is not so much a kindly Gaia; she is a more sociopathic old biddy with a healthy interest in taking away the unfit, the very young, the very old, the sick and the disabled. Her work leaves behind it the breath-taking magnificence that gladdens all of our hearts.

Photograph by Ben Stadler

We humans once used caves to protect ourselves from this unforgiving competition of nature (for the convenience of pedants, the term “cave” here covers every type of our physical and social structures). Inside our caves we protected and nurtured our kind. Unlike “red in tooth and claw” nature outside, inside the human cave there had to be rules, the nurturing rules of the human cave. Put very simply, the rule of our cave was “Fair exchange and sharing without violence”.

Our caves are still with us. Today, they have grown into a complex of mental and physical caves that we now call civilisation. Forget definitions such as “settlement and farming” or “the establishment of city states” or “great works of art”; human civilisation is the act of nurturing our species.  

Those simple cave rules have evolved in complexity, too. They have now become our morals and ethics.  We measure against them as standards to produce our notions of good and bad, right and wrong.  The rules of the cave are now the foundation of our human rights.  But they are still the indoor rules of the human cave.

Outside, in nature, there are no rules, no good or bad, no right or wrong.  That’s why “outdoors” in nature, a cat can rearrange a mouse and a hawk can deconstruct a tiny bird, but their actions are not “cruel” nor “wrong” nor “bad”.  That’s why “outdoor” hunting grounds and battlefields are places of enterprise for hunters and soldiers exercising the prosecution and defence of resources. “Outdoor” nature has no rules, no morals, no rights.  Nature doesn’t give a toss.

And that is why the notion of animal rights is balderdash in the reality of nature, despite it being an amusing academic exercise and an unlimited source of salaries, power, funds and donations for charlatans and eco-politicians alike.  

If animals had rights, we would have to prevent the cat from killing the mouse and the hawk from killing the tiny bird.  But in giving mouse and bird such rights, we would starve the cat and hawk and thereby take their right to life.  So, to give the hawk and the cat back their rights to life, we would take them away from the mouse and the tiny bird.  It is a conundrum, the philosophical equivalent of a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest, a theory whose only true existence is an infantile slogan on a silly poster or an overpriced t shirt.

We cannot avoid killing animals and plants because we have to kill in order to harvest or protect the resources we use.  Everything we use is still taken from nature and dragged into our modern caves.  To pretend otherwise is either childish or dishonest. If we are civilised, then for our own physical and mental comfort we should be concerned with sustainability and animal welfare and try to make animal lives as tolerable as possible. When it becomes necessary to take those lives, directly or indirectly, we should try to make their passing as unexpected, as quick and as painless as circumstances permit.  

But animal welfare (the responsible use of animals to avoid cruelty) is a very, very different matter to animal rights (an impossible prohibition on using animals because they have “rights”). The reality is that we can’t avoid using and killing animals, so we can’t give them “rights”.  Animals themselves don’t give each other “rights”.   Nature, the domain of animals, doesn’t recognise “rights”. Human rights are “indoor” instructions for living inside the human cave that we call civilisation.  

Modern subjective attempts by animal rights activists to extend our human rights “outside” our cave and throw them like a protective net over animals, is nothing less than colonialism by cave-dwellers who have been well protected and nurtured indoors by civilisation for far too long.  Left only with dreams, they have become cut off from the great outdoors and have lost sight of nature.  Nature is a vast and mighty ocean of tempestuous storms where the great tides of existence and extinction come and go, interspersed with calm, sunny days of peace and plenty.  Animal rights activists look out of the stained window of their comfy cave and instead of this titanic spectacle see only a simple duck pond.  Theirs are the same fantasies as over-reaching jobsworth managers, an anthropocentric attempt to extend their safe, domestic human cave out over nature, to impose human rules upon evolution, an act of criminal folly that would destroy the very essence of what nature really is.   

And that, dear reader, is why animal rights are a parasitic nonsense, why animal rights advocates and activists are deceivers or idiots, and why nature neither wants nor needs our human rules.

John Nash grew up in West Cornwall and was a £10 pom to Johannesburg in the early 1960’s. He started well in construction project management, mainly high rise buildings but it wasn’t really Africa, so he went bush, prospecting and trading around the murkier bits of the bottom half of the continent. Now retired back in Cornwall among all the other evil old pirates. His interests are still sustainable resources, wildlife management and the utilitarian needs of rural Africa.