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Humanize World Animal Day and Human Exceptionalism

Crossposted at National Review

October 4 was World Animal Day. Good news: The event was not steeped in “animal rights,” as one might expect, but animal welfare.

That’s important. The former is a misanthropic ideology that invents an explicit moral equality between humans and animals based on the ability to feel pain (painience).

Animal rights leads to despicable advocacy of the kind PETA once promoted in its Holocaust on Your Plate campaign equating meat eating and owning a leather sofa with the treatment of Jews in the Holocaust. Vile. Disgusting, but alas, typical of PETA.

In contrast, animal welfare is consistent with — and arises out of — human exceptionalism. We are the only known moral species in the universe. Only we truly understand right from wrong and good from evil.

Treating animals humanely is one of our essential duties precisely because we understand that animals are not inanimate but have emotions, can suffer, and experience pain. Of course, they are amoral beings and owe no duties to each other or us.

Thus — and ironically — even animal rights advocacy demonstrates the reality of human exceptionalism because it posits a moral obligation upon us to be radically self-sacrificial in our handling of animals — for example, becoming vegan even though we are natural omnivores. Ask yourself: What animal would forgo its natural food for a moral purpose? Obviously, none.

Look at it this way: If being human in and of itself isn’t what gives us the duty to treat animals humanely, what does?  The answer is nothing — which, it seems to me, proves that we are exceptional.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.