From Applied Ethics: A Sourcebook


James Fieser





1. Classic Philosophers on Animal Ethics — Porphyry, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Salt

2. Supreme Court Cases on Animal Cruelty—Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah; U.S. v. Stevens

3. Animal Rights and Human IrresponsibilityPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

4. Animal Rights Extremism: Pro and ContraJerry Vlasak and John E. Lewis






Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Salt


Great philosophers throughout time have been keenly interested in the mental capacities of animals and our moral obligations to them. The views of several are presented below, and, while some are brief, they are among the most influential classic philosophical discussions on this subject. The first selection below is by the ancient Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry (234–305), from a work titled On Abstaining from Animal Food, which is the longest surviving treatise from the ancient world that defends animal interests. Porphyry wrote this work as a letter to a friend who recently abandoned the vegetarian eating practice of his religious community, and Porphyry attempts to coax him back. Porphyry’s argument is straight forward: animals are rational and, for that reason, deserve justice in the same way that humans do. The external expression of reason, he argues, is language and he illustrates how animals use and understand language. The internal component of reason is mental ability and he describes how animal behavior displays sophisticated mental ability. In these ways, animals differ from us in degree, not in kind.

            The next two selections are from Medieval Christian philosophers who take a more traditional view of the moral status of animals. Augustine (354-430) argues that animals do not have reason and, so, the command “thou shalt not kill” does not apply to animals any more than it does to plants. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) argues that God established a hierarchy of life forms in nature so that the lower forms may be killed and eaten by the higher forms. Specifically, plants are to be killed by animals for food, and animals are to be killed by humans for food. For Aquinas, animals lack reason and exhibit motion “by a kind of natural impulse.” This indicates that they “are naturally enslaved and accommodated to the uses of others.” Aquinas explains that animals are the property of humans and, as personal property, it may be wrong to harm someone else’s animal.

            Next, French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) argues that animals are only biological automata -- or robots -- that lack minds and souls. He explains that there are two possible sources of motion in the physical world: mind and purely mechanical force. Although our human motion is activated by mind, animal motion, he argues, is activated by only mechanical force. We often assume that animal motion is caused by mental events within the animal since animals have body parts that look like ours, and animals sometimes act similar to the ways that we do. Nevertheless, he argues, we should not be misled by these similarities with humans. Parts of human biology are purely mechanical and we can even create human-looking machines that move merely by mechanical force; this, he argues, is essentially how all animal motion takes place. Descartes believes that the strongest reason for denying animals minds is the fact that animals do not engage in sophisticated language, which, he maintains, is the prime indicator of rationality.

            Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) argues that human and animal minds are similar insofar as, like us, animals learn from experience and infer that the same events will always follow from the same causes. But, for Hume, human and animal reasoning differs regarding the scope of our ability to make inductive and causal inferences. German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) argues that we do not have direct duties towards animals, but only indirect ones. Kant claims that animals are not self-conscious, and can be used for human purposes: they have only instrumental value and but no intrinsic value. We thus have no direct moral obligations to animals. However, Kant argues, the way that we treat animals has an impact on how we treat fellow humans; for example, if I torture an animal, this may desensitize me towards suffering in general, and I might then start torturing human beings. For Kant, it is wrong to torture animals because of the potential impact on human beings, not because of the suffering that this causes animals themselves. Our obligation toward animals, then, is indirect since it derives from human interests alone.

            While Descartes and Kant do not have a particularly high assessment of the mental and moral status of animals, British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) argues otherwise. He recognizes that animals indeed have more limited capacities than humans; specifically, they can’t conceive of their own futures the way that we can. Thus, we do no real harm to them if we kill them for food or to prevent them from attacking us. However, animals are certainly capable of experiencing pain, and so it is wrong to cause animals suffering. Bentham argues that our laws should grant animals the right not to be inflicted with suffering. Such disregard for animal suffering is similar to the disregard that people in some countries have for the suffering of slaves. Fellow Utilitarian John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) agrees with Bentham and argues that animal happiness should be factored into utilitarian moral decision-making.

            The final selection is by British social reformer Henry Stephens Salt (1851–1939). According to Salt, because of their rational abilities, animals deserve both moral and legal rights, and governments should legally defend the interests of animals. Animals deserve justice and rights, not simply charity, self-sacrifice, or mercy. Salt considers a common justification for raising animals for food: it is better for them to live and to be butchered than not to live at all. He rejects this on the grounds that this same reasoning could be used by slave-breeders, cruel parents and cannibals.



1. In the two preceding books . . . we have demonstrated that animal food does not contribute either to temperance and frugality, or to the piety which especially gives completion to the theoretic life, but is rather hostile to it. . . . We shall pass on, therefore, to the discussion of justice. Our opponents say that this ought only to be extended to those of similar species, and on this account they deny that irrational animals can be harmed by men. Let us thus exhibit the true view as held by the Pythagoreans that every soul which participates of sense and memory is rational. Once this is demonstrated we may extend justice to every animal, which our opponents must then admit. But we shall exemplify what has been said by the ancients on this subject.

            2. Since, according to the doctrine of the Stoics, one kind of reason is internal and another kind external, and again, one kind is right and the other erroneous, it is necessary to explain of which of these two animals lack according to them. . . .


Animals and Language

3. Since, therefore, reason is two-fold, one kind consisting in external speech, but the other in the disposition of the soul, we shall begin from that which is external, and which is arranged according to the voice. But if external reason is voice, which through the tongue signifies the internal passions of the soul . . . how does this pertain to animals which have no voice? . . . Human speech, indeed, conforms to the human laws [of speech], but other animals conform their speech to the laws which they received from the Gods and nature. If we do not understand what they say, that is beside the point, for the Greeks do not understand what is said by the Indians, nor those who are educated in Attica the language of the Scythians. . . . If, however, it is necessary to believe in the ancients, and also in those who have lived in our times, and the times of our fathers, there are some among these who are said to have heard and to have understood the speech of animals. . . .

            4. . . . I think there is no one who is unaware, that there are some nations even now who understand the sounds of certain animals, through an alliance to those animals. Thus, the Arabians understand the language of crows, and the Tyrrhenians of eagles. And, perhaps, all men would understand the language of all animals, if a dragon were to lick their ears. Indeed, the variety and difference in the vocal sounds of animals indicate that they are significant. Hence, we hear one sound when they are terrified, but another, of a different kind, when they call their associates, another when they summon their young to food, another when they lovingly embrace each other, and another when they incite to battle.

            5. It is also described how some dumb animals obey their masters with more readiness than any domestic servants. . . . But is it not absurd to judge of rationality and irrationality from understanding or not understanding the meaning of vocal sounds, or from silence and speech? For thus someone might say, that the God who is above all things, and likewise the other Gods are not rational, because they do not speak. . . . Moreover, those among us that observe animals, and are nurtured together with them, know the meaning of their vocal sounds. The hunter, therefore, from the barking of his dog, perceives at one time that the dog follows a hare, but at another, that the dog has found it; at one time, that he pursues the game, at another that he has caught it, and at another that he is in the wrong track, through having lost the scent of it. Thus, too, the cowherd knows, at one time that a cow is hungry, or thirsty, or tired, and at another, that she is incited to mate, or seeks her calf, [from her different lowings]. A lion also manifests by his roaring that he threatens, a wolf by his howling that he is in a bad condition, and shepherds, from the bleating of sheep, know what the sheep want.

            6. Neither, therefore, are animals unaware of the meaning of the voice of men when they are angry, or speak kindly to, or call them, or pursue them, or ask them to do something, or give something to them. Nor, in short, are they unaware of anything that is usually said to them, but are aptly obedient to it. This would be impossible for them to do, unless that which is similar to intelligence became stimulated as a result of being stimulated by its similar. . . .


Animal Reasoning

7. It is now necessary to show that animals have internal reason. The difference, indeed, between our reason and theirs, appears to consist, as Aristotle somewhere says, not in kind but in degree. This is just as many are of opinion that the difference between the Gods and us is not essential, but consists in this, that in them there is a greater, and in us a less accuracy, of the reasoning power. . . .

            8. Consider whether all the passions of the soul in animals, are not similar to ours; for it is not the province of man alone to apprehend juices by the taste, colors by the sight, odors by the smell, sounds by the hearing, cold or heat, or other tangible objects, by the touch; but the senses of animals are capable of the same perceptions. . . .

            9. It must be demonstrated, therefore, that there is a rational power in animals, and that they are not deprived of judgment. Indeed, in the first place each of them knows whether it is week or strong, and, in consequence of this, it defends some parts of itself, but attacks with others. Thus the panther uses its teeth, the lion its nails and teeth, the horse its hoofs, the ox its horns, the cock its spurs, and the scorpion its sting. . . .

            10. But he who says that these things are naturally present with animals, is unaware in asserting this. . . . Animals, however, learn some things from each other and are taught others, as we have said, by men. They also have memory, which is a most primary thing in the continuation of reasoning and judgment. They likewise have vices, and are envious; though their bad qualities are not so widely extended as in men. . . .

            11. Who likewise is unaware how much social animals maintain justice towards each other? For this is maintained by ants, by bees, and by other animals of the like kind. And who is unaware of the chastity of female ringdoves towards the males with whom they associate? For they destroy those who are found by them to have committed adultery. Or who has not heard of the justice of storks towards their parents? In the several species of animals, a distinctive virtue is well-known, to which each species is naturally adapted. . . .

            12. . . .  Birds, therefore, and dogs, and many quadrupeds, such as goats, horses, sheep, asses, and mules, would die if deprived of an association with mankind. Nature, also, the fabricator of their frame, constituted them so as to be in need of men, and fashioned men so as to require their assistance; thus producing an innate justice in them towards us, and in us towards them. . . .

            13. Someone, however, may say, that brutes are indeed rational animals, but do not have a certain relationship, association, or alliance with us. But he who asserts this will, in the first place, make them to be irrational animals, in consequence of depriving them of an alliance to our nature. Secondly, he will make their association with us depend on the usefulness which we derive from them, and not on the participation of reason. However, the thing proposed by us is to show that brutes are rational animals, and not to inquire whether there is any compact between them and us. For, with respect to men, all of them do not have an alliance with us, and yet no one would say, that he who does not enter into an alliance with us is irrational. . . .

            14. Indeed, the operations of animals are attended with so much consideration that they frequently perceive that the food which is placed for them is nothing else than a snare, though, either through intemperance or hunger, they approach to it. And some of them, indeed, do not approach to it immediately, but others slowly approach it. They also try whether it is possible to take the food without falling into danger, and frequently in consequence of rationality overcoming desire, they leave without being injured. . . .

            15. Animals acquire a knowledge of the arts, and just like humans, learn to dance, to drive a chariot, to fight a duel, to walk on ropes, to write and read, to play on the pipe and the harp, to discharge arrows, and to ride. This being the case, can you any longer doubt whether they possess that power which is receptive of art, since the recipient of these arts may be seen to exist in them? For where will they receive them, unless reason is inherent in them in which the arts subsist? For they do not hear our voice as if it was a mere sound only, but they also perceive the difference in the meaning of the words, which is the effect of rational intelligence. But our opponents say, that animals perform badly what is done by men. To this we reply, that neither do men perform all things well. . . .


Injustice towards Animals

18. Through these arguments, therefore, and others which we shall afterwards mention, in narrating the opinions of the ancients, it is demonstrated that brutes are rational animals, reason in most of them being indeed imperfect, of which, nevertheless, they are not entirely deprived. Since, however, justice pertains to rational beings, as our opponents say, how is it possible not to admit, that we should also act justly towards animals?

            We do not extend justice to plants, because there appears to be much in them which is unconnected with reason; though of these, we are accustomed to use the fruits, but not together with the fruits to cut off the trunks. But we collect, corn and leguminous substances when, being efflorescent, they have fallen on the earth, and are dead. But no one uses for food the flesh of dead animals, that of fish being excepted, unless they have been destroyed by violence. So that in these things there is much injustice.

            As Plutarch also says, it does not follow that because our nature is deprived of certain things, and we use these, we should therefore act unjustly towards all things. We are allowed to harm other things to a certain extent, in order to acquire the necessary means of subsistence (if to take anything from plants, even while they are living, is an injury to them). But to destroy other things through luxury, and for the enjoyment of pleasure, is perfectly savage and unjust. Abstaining from these neither diminishes our life nor our living happily. For if, indeed, the destruction of animals and the eating of flesh were as necessary as air and water, plants and fruits, without which it is impossible to live, this injustice would be necessarily connected with our nature. But many priests of the Gods, and many kings of the barbarians, being attentive to purity, and likewise countless species of animals never taste food of this kind, yet live, and obtain their proper end according to nature. . . .

            19. . . . Comparing plants with animals does violence to the order of things. For animals are naturally sensitive, and adapted to feel pain, to be terrified and hurt; on this account also they may be harmed. But plants are entirely destitute of sensation, and in consequence of this, nothing foreign, or evil, or hurtful, or injurious, can happen to them. Sensation is the principle of all alliance, and of everything of a foreign nature. Zeno and his followers state that alliance is the principle of justice.

            25. But Theophrastus employs the following reasoning: those that are generated from the same sources, I mean from the same father and mother, are said by us to be naturally allied to each other. Moreover, we likewise conceive that those who derive their origin from the same ancestors that we do, are allied to us, and also that this is the case with our fellow-citizens, because they participate with us of the same land, and are united to us by the bonds of association. . . .

            26. Hence, since animals are allied to us, if it should appear, according to Pythagoras, that they are allotted the same soul that we are, he may justly be considered as impious who does not abstain from acting unjustly towards his kindred. Nor because some animals are savage, is their alliance to us to be on this account cut off.



Some attempt to extend this command [“thou shalt not kill”] even to beasts and cattle, as if it forbade us to take life from any creature. But if so, why not extend it also to the plants, and all that is rooted in and nourished by the earth? For though this class of creatures have no sensation, yet they also are said to live, and consequently they can die; and therefore, if harm be done them, can be killed. So, too, the apostle, when speaking of the seeds of such things as these, says, “That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die;” and in the Psalm it is said, “He killed their vines with hail.” Must we therefore reckon it a breaking of this commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” to pull a flower? Are we thus insanely to express the foolish error of the Manichaeans? Putting aside, then, these ravings, if, when we say, Thou shalt not kill, we do not understand this of the plants, since they have no sensation, nor of the irrational animals that fly, swim, walk, or creep, since they are dissociated from us by their want of reason, and are therefore by the just appointment of the Creator subjected to us to kill or keep alive for our own uses. If so, then it remains that we understand that commandment simply of man. The commandment is, “Thou shall not kill man;” therefore neither another nor yourself, for he who kills himself still kills nothing else than man.




Objection 1. It would seem unlawful to kill any living thing. For the Apostle says (Rm. 13:2): “They that resist the ordinance of God purchase to themselves damnation [Vulg.: ‘He that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, purchase themselves damnation.’].” Now Divine providence has ordained that all living things should be preserved, according to Ps. 146:8,9, “Who maketh grass to grow on the mountains . . . Who giveth to beasts their food.” Therefore it seems unlawful to take the life of any living thing.

            Objection 2. Further, murder is a sin because it deprives a man of life. Now life is common to all animals and plants. Hence for the same reason it is apparently a sin to slay dumb animals and plants.

            Objection 3. Further, in the Divine law a special punishment is not appointed save for a sin. Now a special punishment had to be inflicted, according to the Divine law, on one who killed another man’s ox or sheep (Ex. 22:1). Therefore the slaying of dumb animals is a sin.

            On the contrary, Augustine says (City of God, 1:20): “When we hear it said, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ we do not take it as referring to trees, for they have no sense, nor to irrational animals, because they have no fellowship with us. Hence it follows that the words, ‘Thou shalt not kill’ refer to the killing of a man.”

            I answer that, There is no sin in using a thing for the purpose for which it is. Now the order of things is such that the imperfect are for the perfect, even as in the process of generation nature proceeds from imperfection to perfection. Hence it is that just as in the generation of a man there is first a living thing, then an animal, and lastly a man, so too things, like the plants, which merely have life, are all alike for animals, and all animals are for man. For this reason it is not unlawful if man use plants for the good of animals, and animals for the good of man, as the Philosopher states (Politics, 1:3).

            Now the most necessary use would seem to consist in the fact that animals use plants, and men use animals, for food, and this cannot be done unless these be deprived of life: For this reason it is lawful both to take life from plants for the use of animals, and from animals for the use of men. In fact this is in keeping with the commandment of God Himself: for it is written (Gn. 1:29,30): “Behold I have given you every herb . . . and all trees . . . to be your meat, and to all beasts of the earth”: and again (Gn. 9:3): “Everything that moveth and liveth shall be meat to you.”

            Reply to Objection 1. According to the Divine ordinance the life of animals and plants is preserved not for themselves but for man. Hence, as Augustine says (City of God, 1: 20), “by a most just ordinance of the Creator, both their life and their death are subject to our use.”

            Reply to Objection 2. Dumb animals and plants are devoid of the life of reason whereby to set themselves in motion; they are moved, as it were by another, by a kind of natural impulse, a sign of which is that they are naturally enslaved and accommodated to the uses of others.

            Reply to Objection 3. He that kills another’s ox, sins, not through killing the ox, but through injuring another man in his property. For this reason this is not a species of the sin of murder but of the sin of theft or robbery.



The greatest of all prejudices we have retained from infancy is that of believing that animals think. The source of our error comes from having observed that many of the bodily members of animals are not very different from our own in shape and movements. The mistake also comes from the belief that our mind is the principle of motions that occur in us, and that it imparts motion to the body and is the cause of our thoughts. Assuming this, we find no difficulty in believing that there is in animals a mind similar to our own. But, after thinking well upon it, I have made the discovery that two different principles of our movements are to be distinguished. The one is entirely mechanical and corporeal, and depends solely on the force of the animal spirits and the configuration of the bodily parts; this may be called corporeal soul. The other is incorporeal, that is to say, mind or soul, which you may define as a substance which thinks. I have inquired with great care whether the motions of animals proceed from these two principles or from one alone. Now, having clearly perceived that they can proceed from one only, I have held it demonstrated that we are not able in any manner to prove that there is in animals a soul that thinks.

            I am not at all disturbed in my opinion by those deceitful and cunning tricks of dogs and foxes, nor by all those things which animals do, either from fear, or to get something to eat, or just for sport. I maintain to explain all that very easily, merely by the conformation of the parts of the animals. Nevertheless, although I regard it as a thing demonstrated that it cannot be proved that animals have thought, I do not think that it can be demonstrated that the contrary is not true [i.e., we cannot prove that animals lack thought], because the human mind cannot penetrate into the heart to know what goes on there. But on examining into the probabilities of the case, I see no reason whatever to prove that animals think. One possible reason is that by having eyes, ears, a tongue, and other organs of sense like ours, it is likely that they have sensations as we do; and as thought is involved in the sensations which we have, a similar faculty of thought must be attributed to them. Now, since this argument is within the reach of everyone’s capacity, it has held possession of all minds from infancy. But there are other stronger and more numerous arguments for the opposite opinion, which do not so readily present themselves to everybody’s mind. For example, it is more reasonable to make earthworms, flies, caterpillars, and the rest of the animals move as machines do, than to give them immortal souls.

            It is certain that in the body of animals, as in ours, there are bones, nerves, muscles, blood, animal spirits, and other organs which are given in such a manner that they can produce themselves without the aid of any thought. All the movements which we observe in animals are as appears in convulsive movements, as when in spite of the mind itself, the machine of the body moves often with greater violence, and in more various ways than it is accustomed to do with the aid of the will. Further, humans are able to construct different automata in which there is movement without any thought. In as much as it is agreeable to reason that art should imitate nature, nature, on her part, might produce these automata, and far more excellent ones as the animals are, than those which come from the hands of people. Thus, there is no reason anywhere why thought is to be found wherever we perceive a conformity of bodily members like that of the animals. And it is more surprising that there should be a soul in every human body than that there should be none at all in the animals.

            But the principal argument to my mind, which may convince us that animals are devoid of reason is this. Among animals of the same species, some are more perfect than others, as among people. This is particularly noticeable in horses and dogs, some of which have more capacity than others to retain what is taught them. All of them make us clearly understand their natural movements of anger, of fear, of hunger, and others of like kind, either by the voice or by other bodily motions. However, it has never yet been observed that any animal has arrived at such a degree of perfection as to make use of a true language. That is to say, they have not been able to indicate to us by the voice, or by other signs anything which could be referred to thought alone, rather than to a movement of mere nature. For the word is the sole sign and the only certain mark of the presence of thought hidden and wrapped up in the body. Now, all people, the most stupid and the most foolish, those even who are deprived of the organs of speech, make use of signs, whereas the animals never do anything of the kind. This may be taken as the true distinction between humans and animals.

            . . . It must, however, be observed that I speak of the thought of animals, not of their life, nor of their sensation. For I do not deny the life of any animal when making it consist solely in the warmth of the heart. I do not refuse to them feeling even, in so far as it depends only on the bodily organs. Thus, my opinion is not so cruel to animals as it is favorable to humans. I speak to those who are not committed to the extravagant position of Pythagoras, who held people under suspicion of a crime if they ate or killed animals.




Causal Reasoning

First, it seems evident, that animals as well as men learn many things from experience, and infer, that the same events will always follow from the same causes. By this principle they become acquainted with the more obvious properties of external objects, and gradually, from their birth, treasure up a knowledge of the nature of fire, water, earth, stones, heights, depths, etc, and of the effects which result from their operation. The ignorance and inexperience of the young are here plainly distinguishable from the cunning and sagacity of the old, who have learned, by long observation, to avoid what hurt them, and to pursue what gave ease or pleasure. A horse, that has been accustomed to the field, becomes acquainted with the proper height which he can leap, and will never attempt what exceeds his force and ability. An old greyhound will trust the more fatiguing part of the chase to the younger, and will place himself so as to meet the hare in her doubles; nor are the conjectures, which he forms on this occasion, founded in anything but his observation and experience.

            This is still more evident from the effects of discipline and education on animals, who, by the proper application of rewards and punishments, may be taught any course of action, and most contrary to their natural instincts and propensities. Is it not experience, which renders a dog apprehensive of pain, when you menace him, or lift up the whip to beat him? Is it not even experience, which makes him answer to his name, and infer, from such an arbitrary sound, that you mean him rather than any of his fellows, and intend to call him, when you pronounce it in a certain manner, and with a certain tone and accent?

            In all these cases, we may observe, that the animal infers some fact beyond what immediately strikes his senses; and that this inference is altogether founded on past experience, while the creature expects from the present object the same consequences, which it has always found in its observation to result from similar objects.

            Secondly, it is impossible, that this inference of the animal can be founded on any process of argument or reasoning, by which he concludes, that like events must follow like objects, and that the course of nature will always be regular in its operations. For if there be in reality any arguments of this nature, they surely lie too abstruse for the observation of such imperfect understandings; since it may well employ the utmost care and attention of a philosophic genius to discover and observe them. Animals, therefore are not guided in these inferences by reasoning: Neither are children; neither are the generality of mankind, in their ordinary actions and conclusions: Neither are philosophers themselves, who, in all the active parts of life, are, in the main, the same with the vulgar, and are governed by the same maxims. Nature must have provided some other principle, of more ready, and more general use and application; nor can an operation of such immense consequence in life, as that of inferring effects from causes, be trusted to the uncertain process of reasoning and argumentation. Were this doubtful with regard to men, it seems to admit of no question with regard to the brute creation; and the conclusion being once firmly established in the one, we have a strong presumption, from all the rules of analogy, that it ought to be universally admitted, without any exception or reserve. It is custom alone, which engages animals, from every object, that strikes their senses, to infer its usual attendant, and carries their imagination, from the appearance of the one, to conceive the other, in that particular manner, which we denominate belief. No other explication can be given of this operation, in all the higher, as well as lower classes of sensitive beings, which fall under our notice and observation.

            But though animals learn many parts of their knowledge from observation, there are also many parts of it, which they derive from the original hand of nature; which much exceed the share of capacity they possess on ordinary occasions; and in which they improve, little or nothing, by the longest practice and experience. These we denominate instincts, and are so apt to admire as something very extraordinary, and inexplicable by all the disquisitions of human understanding. But our wonder will, perhaps, cease or diminish, when we consider, that the experimental reasoning itself, which we possess in common with beasts, and on which the whole conduct of life depends, is nothing but a species of instinct or mechanical power, that acts in us unknown to ourselves; and in its chief operations, is not directed by any such relations or comparisons of ideas, as are the proper objects of our intellectual faculties. Though the instinct be different, yet still it is an instinct, which teaches a man to avoid the fire; as much as that, which teaches a bird, with such exactness, the art of incubation, and the whole economy and order of its nursery.


Differences between Human and Animal Reasoning

We shall here endeavor briefly to explain the great difference in human understandings: After which the reason of the difference between men and animals will easily be comprehended.

            1. When we have lived any time, and have been accustomed to the uniformity of nature, we acquire a general habit, by which we always transfer the known to the unknown, and conceive the latter to resemble the former. By means of this general habitual principle, we regard even one experiment as the foundation of reasoning, and expect a similar event with some degree of certainty, where the experiment has been made accurately, and free from all foreign circumstances. It is therefore considered as a matter of great importance to observe the consequences of things; and as one man may very much surpass another in attention and memory and observation, this will make a very great difference in their reasoning.

            2. Where there is a complication of causes to produce any effect, one mind may be much larger than another, and better able to comprehend the whole system of objects, and to infer justly their consequences.

            3. One man is able to carry on a chain of consequences to a greater length than another.

            4. Few men can think long without running into a confusion of ideas, and mistaking one for another; and there are various degrees of this infirmity.

            5. The circumstance, on which the effect depends, is frequently involved in other circumstances, which are foreign and extrinsic. The separation of it often requires great attention, accuracy, and subtlety.

            6. The forming of general maxims from particular observation is a very nice operation; and nothing is more usual, from haste or a narrowness of mind, which sees not on all sides, than to commit mistakes in this particular.

            7. When we reason from analogies, the man, who has the greater experience or the greater promptitude of suggesting analogies, will be the better reasoner.

            8. Biases from prejudice, education, passion, party, etc. hang more upon one mind than another.

            9. After we have acquired a confidence in human testimony, books and conversation enlarge much more the sphere of one man's experience and thought than those of another.

            It would be easy to discover many other circumstances that make a difference in the understandings of men.




Animals are not self-conscious; they are there only as a means to an end, and man is that end. I cannot ask, "Why does man exist?" but I can ask this of animals. Accordingly, we have no duties directly towards animals, but instead our duties to them are indirect duties towards humanity. Animals bear an analogy to human nature. We then observe duties to humanity when we observe duties towards those analogies, and we indirectly carry out our duties towards humanity. If, for instance, a dog has faithfully served his master for a long time, then there is an analogy of merit, and so I have to reward the dog when he can no longer be used to obtain that end. Through this, I further my duty to humanity, especially for things that are obligatory. Thus, if the actions of animals originate from the same principle as give arise to the actions of men, and the animal bears an analogy, then we have duties towards animals that thereby transfer to humanity. So if someone shoots his dog because it can no longer earn its keep, he does not act contrary to duty to the dog, because the dog has no judgment. However, he has injured the kindness and humanity in himself, which he has a duty to exercise with respect to mankind. So that man may not obliterate this duty, he must practice kindness even to animals, because the person who exercises such cruelties against animals is also hardened against men. You may know the human heart in view of treatment towards animals.

            Thus, Hogarth shows in his engravings the beginning of cruelty [i.e., “The Four Stages of Cruelty”]. Children already practice it against animals, for instance, by pinching a dog or cat's tail. In another of his pieces cruelty progresses where a man runs over a child, and finally ends in a cruel act of murder. He thereby shows the awful reward of cruelty, which is good advice for children. The more one sees animals and observes their behavior, the more he loves animals, particularly when seeing how much they take care of their young. Then you cannot think of being cruel even to the wolf. Leibniz, after observing a worm, put it and its leaf back on the tree for fear that the worm might come to harm through his own fault. It makes us feel sorry to destroy such a creature for no reason. This gentleness shifts over to people. In England, no butcher, surgeon or physician can be one the 12 jurors because they are desensitized to death. It is indeed cruel for anatomists to use living animals in experiments, even though it is conducted for a good purpose. This is justified since animals are considered the instruments of people, but this is not so with sports. When a man rejects his dog or ass because it can no longer earn its keep, it always shows a very small mind in its master. The Greeks were noble in this way, which is proved by the story of the donkey, who accidentally pulled the bell of ingratitude. So our duties towards animals are indirect duties towards humanity.



What other agents then are there, which, at the same time that they are under the influence of man's direction, are susceptible of happiness. They are of two sorts: 1. Other human beings who are styled persons. 2. Other animals, which, on account of their interests having been neglected by the insensibility of the ancient jurists, stand degraded into the class of things.

            [Footnote:]  Under the Gentoo and Mahometan religions [i.e., Hindu and Muslim religions], the interests of the rest of the animal creation seem to have met with some attention. Why have they not universally, with as much as those of human creatures, allowance made for the difference in point of sensibility? Because the laws that are have been the work of mutual fear; a sentiment which the less rational animals have not had the same means as man has of turning to account. Why ought they not? No reason can be given. If the being eaten were all [i.e., if we consider only the issue of eating animals], there is very good reason why we should be suffered to eat such of them as we like to eat: we are the better for it, and they are never the worse. They have none of those long-protracted anticipations of future misery which we have. The death they suffer in our hands commonly is, and always may be, a speedier, and by that means a less painful one, than that which would await them in the inevitable course of nature. If the being killed were all [i.e., if we consider only the issue of killing animals], there is very good reason why we should be suffered to kill such as molest us: we should be the worse for their living, and they are never the worse for being dead.

            But is there any reason why we should be suffered to torment them? Not any that I can see. Are there any why we should not be suffered to torment them? Yes, several. The day has been, I grieve to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated by the law exactly upon the same footing as, in England for example, the inferior races of animals are still. The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of the legs, the villosity [i.e., hairiness] of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum [i.e., the bone at the base of the spine], are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is, beyond comparison, a more rational as well as a more conversable animal than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?




Dr. Whewell puts the last hand to his supposed refutation of Bentham’s principle, by what he thinks a crushing reductio ad absurdum. The reader might make a hundred guesses before discovering what this is. We have not yet got over our astonishment, not at Bentham, but at Dr. Whewell. See, he says, to what consequences your greatest-happiness principle leads! Bentham says that it is as much a moral duty to regard the pleasures and pains of other animals as those of human beings. . . .

            This noble anticipation [by Betham], in 1780, of the better morality of which a first dawn has been seen in the laws enacted nearly fifty years afterwards against cruelty to animals, is in Dr. Whewell’s eyes the finishing proof that the morality of happiness is absurd!


The pleasures of animals are elements of a very different order from the pleasures of man. We are bound to endeavour to augment the pleasures of men, not only because they are pleasures, but because they are human pleasures. We are bound to men by the universal tie of humanity, of human brotherhood. We have no such tie to animals.


            This then is Dr. Whewell’s noble and disinterested ideal of virtue. Duties, according to him, are only duties to ourselves and our like.


We are to be humane to them, because we are human, not because we and they alike feel animal pleasures. . . . The morality which depends upon the increase of pleasure alone, would make it our duty to increase the pleasure of pigs or of geese rather than that of men, if we were sure that the pleasures we could give them were greater than the pleasures of men. ... It is not only not an obvious, but to most persons not a tolerable doctrine, that we may sacrifice the happiness of men provided we can in that way produce an overplus of pleasure to cats, dogs, and hogs.


            It is “to most persons” in the Slave States of America not a tolerable doctrine that we may sacrifice any portion of the happiness of white men for the sake of a greater amount of happiness to black men. It would have been intolerable five centuries ago “to most persons” among the feudal nobility, to hear it asserted that the greatest pleasure or pain of a hundred serfs ought not to give way to the smallest of a nobleman. According to the standard of Dr. Whewell the slavemasters and the nobles were right. They too felt themselves “bound” by a “tie of brotherhood” to the white men and to the nobility, and felt no such tie to the negroes and serfs. And if a feeling on moral subjects is right because it is natural, their feeling was justifiable. Nothing is more natural to human beings, nor, up to a certain point in cultivation, more universal, than to estimate the pleasures and pains of others as deserving of regard exactly in proportion to their likeness to ourselves. These superstitions of selfishness had the characteristics by which Dr. Whewell recognizes his moral rules; and his opinion on the rights of animals shows that in this case at least he is consistent. We are perfectly willing to stake the whole question on this one issue. Granted that any practice causes more pain to animals than it gives pleasure to man; is that practice moral or immoral? And if, exactly in proportion as human beings raise their heads out of the slough of selfishness, they do not with one voice answer “immoral,” let the morality of the principle of utility be forever condemned.



Moral and Legal Rights for Animals

The mention of “Rights” brings us to the core of our subject. We claim for animals, as for men, in so far as it is compatible with the public welfare, a measure of individuality and freedom, a space in which to live their own lives—in a word, Rights. Into the interminable field of discussion as to the fitness of this term I do not propose to enter, because my purpose is not an academic but a practical one, and in the redressing of social injustice Action cannot forever wait for the good pleasure of Logic. It may be that, from a strictly logical point of view, there are no such things as “Rights,” in which case it is obvious that we cannot claim for animals what is denied to men; but if, as is usually conceded, there are rights of men, then we assert there are also, in due degree, rights of animals also. . . . The essential part of my contention is that in this matter there is no absolute difference, no impassable gulf, between mankind and “the animals.” If man has reason, animals have the germ of reason. If man has rights, animals have the same-in kind. . . .

            But if it be a satisfaction to anyone to express it in this manner, and to say that men have duties towards animals, rather than that animals possess rights, I do not know that the difference is worth quarrelling over-provided always that the duties be acknowledged to be real and direct ones, a subject to which I will presently recur. In using the word “rights,” therefore, I must premise that I do so, not because it is essential to my argument, but because it appears to be on the whole the best term available, and most expressive of what I have in mind. If a more suitable name can be found, I am quite ready to adopt it. . . .

            But what kind of rights? it will be asked; for it is plain that animals cannot possess legal rights in the full sense in which citizens possess them, that is, rights that the injured party can himself enforce in the law-courts. Even we humanitarians, for all our “incapacity for distinguishing between men and beasts,” do not advise the ill-used cab-horse to take out a summons in propria persona [i.e., acting as one’s own attorney] against the guilty driver; that is a function which must be performed by the benevolent agency of mankind. Are we to say, then, that the rights of animals are solely of the moral order? I think not, seeing that we have an actual legislative assertion that certain kinds of animals are not the mere property of their owners-that “ cattle “ are not mere “ chattel,” in short-but sentient creatures whom the State is pledged to defend from wanton harm, just as it defends those human beings who cannot protect themselves. . . .

            How, then, shall we sum up in a sentence the principle of our duties to the lower animals? I do not know that it can be better done than in the words of George Nicholson, one of those early pioneers to the influence of whose writings, though now almost forgotten, the cause of humaneness owes so much. “In our conduct to animals,” he wrote, “one plain rule may determine what form it ought to take, and prove an effectual guard against an improper treatment of them-a rule universally admitted as a foundation of moral rectitude: Treat the animal in such a manner as you would willingly be treated, were you such an animal.” In our dealings with the non-human as with the human race, it is not “charity,” or “self-sacrifice,” or “mercy” that is required, but simple justice—an insistence on our own duties as on those of our neighbors, a recognition of our neighbors’ rights as of our own. The kinship of life is the only true basis of Ethics; and it is towards this sense of kinship, seen at first only by inspired poets and dreamers from afar, that science, no less than humanitarian sentiment, is now leading us.


The Logic of the Larder

It is often said, as an excuse for the slaughter of animals, that it is better for them to live and to be butchered than not to live at all. Now, obviously, if such reasoning justifies the practice of flesh-eating, it must equally justify all breeding of animals for profit or pastime, when their life is a fairly happy one. The argument is frequently used by sportsmen, on the ground that the fox would long ago have become extinct in this country had not they, his true friends, “preserved” him for purposes of sport. Vivisectors, who breed guinea-pigs for experimentation, also have used it, and they have as much right to it as flesh-eaters; for how, they may say, can a few hours of suffering be set in the balance against the enormous benefit of life? In fact, if we once admit that it is an advantage to an animal to be brought into the world, there is hardly any treatment that cannot be justified by the supposed terms of such a contract.

            Also, the argument must apply to mankind. It has, in fact, been the plea of the slave-breeder; and it is logically just as good an excuse for slave-holding as for flesh-eating. It would justify parents in almost any treatment of their children, who owe them, for the great boon of life, a debt of gratitude which no subsequent services can repay. We could hardly deny the same merit to cannibals, if they were to breed their human victims for the table, as the early Peruvians are said to have done.

            It is on record, in no less authentic a work than “Hansard” (March 7/ 1883), that when Sir Herbert Maxwell argued in Parliament that a “blue rock” [pigeon] would prefer to be sport for pigeon-shooters than not to exist at all, Mr. W. E. Forster satirically remarked that what we have to consider is not a blue rock before existence, but a blue rock in existence. There, in brief, is the key to the whole matter. The fallacy lies in the confusion of thought which attempts to compare existence with non-existence. A person who is already in existence may feel that he would rather have lived than not, but he must first have the terra firma of existence to argue from; the moment he begins to argue as if from the abyss of the non-existent, he talks nonsense, by predicating good or evil, happiness or unhappiness, of that of which we can predicate nothing.

            When, therefore, we talk of “bringing a being,” as we vaguely express it, “into the world,” we cannot claim from that being any gratitude for our action, or drive a bargain with him, and a very shabby one, on that account; nor can our duties to him be evaded by any such quibble, in which the wish is so obviously father to the thought.


Source: Porphyry, On Abstinence from Killing Animals, 3, tr. Thomas Taylor. Augustine, The City of God, 1.20, tr. Marcus Dods. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, tr. Laurence Shapcote, 2a-2ae, Q. 65.1. René Descartes, “Letter by Descartes to Henry More” (1649), tr. Henry Torrey. David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 9. Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics (c. 1780), tr. Alan Smithee. Jeremy Bentham Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), 17.1. John Stuart Mill, “Whewell on Moral Philosophy” (1852). Henry Salt, “The Rights of Animals,” The International Journal of Ethics (1900), Vol. 10; The Humanities of Diet (1914).


Questions for Review

1. According to Porphyry, what are some of the ways in which animals externally display reason through their language skills?

2. According to Porphyry, what are some of the ways in which animals display the internal cognitive capacity for reason through their conduct?

3. According to Augustine, are the main mental features that distinguish animals from plants, and humans from animals?

4. According to Aquinas, what is the process of generation from which nature proceeds?

5. According to Aquinas, what is the most necessary use that humans can make of animals?

6. According to Descartes, what reason is most often held for thinking that animals do think?

7. What reasons does Descartes give for denying a thinking soul to animals?

8. According to Hume, what kind of things do animals infer from past experience?

9. Why does Hume think that animals infer causes from effects by habit or custom as opposed to reason?

10. According to Kant, why is it wrong for someone to shoot his pet dog when it is no longer of service?

11. According to Kant, why don’t butchers and doctors sit on juries in England?

12. Explain Bentham’s comparison between tormenting animals and tormenting slaves.

13. What is Mill’s response to Whewell’s claim that making sacrifices on behalf of animals is intolerable?

14. According to Salt, what kind of rights do animals deserve?

15. What, according to Salt, is the “logic of the larder” (“larder” is a term for a food storage room).



Questions for Analysis


1. Porphyry and Descartes both examine the issue of animal language and arrive at opposite conclusions. Explain their reasoning for their respective positions and discuss which one you think is correct.

2. Augustine and Aquinas both give scriptural arguments in defense of using animals. Explain those arguments and discuss how a religious person might defend animal rights against their arguments.

3. According to Hume, causal reasoning is one of the central components of the human reasoning process, and animals have this basic ability too. Explain Hume’s view and how Descartes might respond to Hume.

4. Descartes is commonly credited with creating a philosophical justification for experimenting on live animals (vivisectionism). What in the above selection from Descartes might lead to such justification, and what if anything is wrong with Descartes’ position?

5. Kant argues that we have an indirect duty to show compassion towards animals since our treatment of animals impacts our treatment of humans. Many animal rights defenders believe that Kant does not go far enough and that we need to extend direct moral duties to animals. What if anything is so bad about having only indirect duties towards animals? Explain.

6. How might Descartes respond to Bentham’s view that animals consciously experience pain, and which of these two philosophers’ positions seems most correct?

7. Bentham maintains that we can kill animals for food since animals can’t conceive of their own futures. Defend or refute this position.

8. Mill criticizes Whewell’s view that making sacrifices on behalf of animals is intolerable. Discuss Mill’s criticism and explain how Whewell might respond.

9. According to Salt, meat eaters often justify raising animals for food on the grounds that it is better for animals to live and to be butchered than not to live at all. Salt argues that this argument is fallacious since we cannot compare existence to non-existence. Explain Salt’s point behind this fallacy and discuss whether he is correct.









Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah; U.S. v. Stevens


The U.S. Federal government and all 50 states have laws against animal cruelty, and two cases concerning such cruelty made their way to the Supreme Court. The first, Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993), involves charges of animal cruelty in the performance of a religious sacrificial ritual by a church which follows the Santeria religion in a Florida city. City officials passed a series of resolutions against religions sacrifice on the grounds of animal cruelty. The Supreme Court held that city resolutions were crafted specifically against animal sacrifice in religion, and no other type of killing of animals. It was thus clearly discriminatory against religion and violated the Constitution’s first amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion. The second case, U.S. v. Stevens (2010),  involves a federal law that banned the commercial production of crush and dog fighting videos that depict acts of animal cruelty. The Court held that the wording of the federal law was too broad and could in theory apply to hunting videos. In a dissenting opinion, one Justice argued that the federal law was narrow enough to exclude hunting videos since the law targeted acts of animal cruelty that were illegal: hunting is legal, while the conduct depicted in crush and dog fighting videos is already illegal.





Petitioner church and its congregants practice the Santeria religion, which employs animal sacrifice as one of its principal forms of devotion. The animals are killed by cutting their carotid arteries and are cooked and eaten following all Santeria rituals except healing and death rites. After the church leased land in respondent city and announced plans to establish a house of worship and other facilities there, the city council held an emergency public session and passed, among other enactments, Resolution 87 66, which noted city residents' “concern” over religious practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety, and declared the city's “commitment” to prohibiting such practices; Ordinance 87 40, which incorporates the Florida animal cruelty laws and broadly punishes “[w]hoever . . . unnecessarily or cruelly . . . kills any animal,” and has been interpreted to reach killings for religious reasons; Ordinance 87 52, which defines “sacrifice” as “to unnecessarily kill . . . an animal in a . . . ritual . . . not for the primary purpose of food consumption,” and prohibits the “possess[ion], sacrifice, or slaughter” of an animal if it is killed in “any type of ritual” and there is an intent to use it for food, but exempts “any licensed [food] establishment” if the killing is otherwise permitted by law; Ordinance 87 71, which prohibits the sacrifice of animals, and defines “sacrifice” in the same manner as Ordinance 87 52; and Ordinance 87 72, which defines “slaughter” as “the killing of animals for food” and prohibits slaughter outside of areas zoned for slaughterhouses, but includes an exemption for “small numbers of hogs and/or cattle” when exempted by state law. Petitioners filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of their rights under, inter alia, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.


Majority Opinion: Ban on Animal Sacrifice Discriminatory (Justice Kennedy)

Ordinance 87-40 incorporates the Florida animal cruelty statute, Fla. Stat. § 828.12 (1987). Its prohibition is broad on its face, punishing “[w]hoever . . . unnecessarily . . . kills any animal.” The city claims that this ordinance is the epitome of a neutral prohibition. The problem, however, is the interpretation given to the ordinance by respondent and the Florida attorney general. Killings for religious reasons are deemed unnecessary, whereas most other killings fall outside the prohibition. The city, on what seems to be a per se basis, deems hunting, slaughter of animals for food, eradication of insects and pests, and euthanasia as necessary. There is no indication in the record that respondent has concluded that hunting or fishing for sport is unnecessary. Indeed, one of the few reported Florida cases decided under § 828.12 concludes that the use of live rabbits to train greyhounds is not unnecessary. Further, because it requires an evaluation of the particular justification for the killing, this ordinance represents a system of “individualized governmental assessment of the reasons for the relevant conduct.” As we noted in Smith, in circumstances in which individualized exemptions from a general requirement are available, the government “may not refuse to extend that system to cases of ‘religious hardship’ without compelling reason.” Respondent's application of the ordinance's test of necessity devalues religious reasons for killing by judging them to be of lesser import than nonreligious reasons. Thus, religious practice is being singled out for discriminatory treatment.


Concurring Opinion: Narrow Scope of the Case (Justice Blackmun)

It is only in the rare case that a state or local legislature will enact a law directly burdening religious practice as such. Because the respondent here does single out religion in this way, the present case is an easy one to decide.

            A harder case would be presented if petitioners were requesting an exemption from a generally applicable anticruelty law. The result in the case before the Court today, and the fact that every Member of the Court concurs in that result, does not necessarily reflect this Court's views of the strength of a State's interest in prohibiting cruelty to animals. This case does not present, and I therefore decline to reach, the question whether the Free Exercise Clause would require a religious exemption from a law that sincerely pursued the goal of protecting animals from cruel treatment. The number of organizations that have filed amicus briefs on behalf of this interest, [e.g., Humane Society of the United States, American Humane Association, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] however, demonstrates that it is not a concern to be treated lightly.





Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. §48 to criminalize the commercial creation, sale, or possession of certain depictions of animal cruelty. The statute addresses only portrayals of harmful acts, not the underlying conduct. It applies to any visual or auditory depiction “in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed,” if that conduct violates federal or state law where “the creation, sale, or possession takes place,” §48(c)(1). Another clause exempts depictions with “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.” §48(b). The legislative background of §48 focused primarily on “crush videos,” which feature the torture and killing of helpless animals and are said to appeal to persons with a specific sexual fetish. Respondent Stevens was indicted under §48 for selling videos depicting dogfighting. He moved to dismiss, arguing that §48 is facially invalid under the First Amendment.


Majority Opinion: Video Ban too Inclusive (Justice Roberts)

The Government’s primary submission is that §48 necessarily complies with the Constitution because the banned depictions of animal cruelty, as a class, are categorically unprotected by the First Amendment. We disagree.

            The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” “[A]s a general matter, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.” Section 48 explicitly regulates expression based on content: The statute restricts “visual [and] auditory depiction[s],” such as photographs, videos, or sound recordings, depending on whether they depict conduct in which a living animal is intentionally harmed. As such, §48 is “‘presumptively invalid,’ and the Government bears the burden to rebut that presumption.”

            “From 1791 to the present,” however, the First Amendment has “permitted restrictions upon the content of speech in a few limited areas,” and has never “include[d] a freedom to disregard these traditional limitations.” These “historic and traditional categories long familiar to the bar,”—including obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, and speech integral to criminal conduct—are “well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem.”

            The Government argues that “depictions of animal cruelty” should be added to the list. It contends that depictions of “illegal acts of animal cruelty” that are “made, sold, or possessed for commercial gain” necessarily “lack expressive value,” and may accordingly “be regulated as unprotected speech.” The claim is not just that Congress may regulate depictions of animal cruelty subject to the First Amendment , but that these depictions are outside the reach of that Amendment altogether—that they fall into a “ ‘ First Amendment Free Zone.’ “

            As the Government notes, the prohibition of animal cruelty itself has a long history in American law, starting with the early settlement of the Colonies. But we are unaware of any similar tradition excluding depictions of animal cruelty from “the freedom of speech” codified in the First Amendment , and the Government points us to none. . . .

            The only thing standing between defendants who sell such depictions and five years in federal prison—other than the mercy of a prosecutor—is the statute’s exceptions clause. Subsection (b) exempts from prohibition “any depiction that has serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.” The Government argues that this clause substantially narrows the statute’s reach: News reports about animal cruelty have “journalistic” value; pictures of bullfights in Spain have “historical” value; and instructional hunting videos have “educational” value. Thus, the Government argues, §48 reaches only crush videos, depictions of animal fighting (other than Spanish bullfighting), and perhaps other depictions of “extreme acts of animal cruelty.”

            The Government’s attempt to narrow the statutory ban, however, requires an unrealistically broad reading of the exceptions clause. As the Government reads the clause, any material with “redeeming societal value,” “‘at least some minimal value,’ “ or anything more than “scant social value,” is excluded under §48(b). But the text says “serious” value, and “serious” should be taken seriously. We decline the Government’s invitation—advanced for the first time in this Court—to regard as “serious” anything that is not “scant.” As the Government recognized below, “serious” ordinarily means a good bit more. The District Court’s jury instructions required value that is “significant and of great import,” and the Government defended these instructions as properly relying on “a commonly accepted meaning of the word ‘serious.’”

            Quite apart from the requirement of “serious” value in §48(b), the excepted speech must also fall within one of the enumerated categories. Much speech does not. Most hunting videos, for example, are not obviously instructional in nature, except in the sense that all life is a lesson. According to Safari Club International and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, many popular videos “have primarily entertainment value” and are designed to “entertai[n] the viewer, marke[t] hunting equipment, or increas[e] the hunting community.” The National Rifle Association agrees that “much of the content of hunting media . . . is merely recreational in nature.” The Government offers no principled explanation why these depictions of hunting or depictions of Spanish bullfights would be inherently valuable while those of Japanese dogfights are not. The dissent contends that hunting depictions must have serious value because hunting has serious value, in a way that dogfights presumably do not. But §48(b) addresses the value of the depictions, not of the underlying activity. There is simply no adequate reading of the exceptions clause that results in the statute’s banning only the depictions the Government would like to ban.


Dissenting Opinion: Parallels with Child Pornography Video Ban (Justice Alito)

The Court strikes down in its entirety a valuable statute, that was enacted not to suppress speech, but to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty—in particular, the creation and commercial exploitation of “crush videos,” a form of depraved entertainment that has no social value. The Court’s approach, which has the practical effect of legalizing the sale of such videos and is thus likely to spur a resumption of their production, is unwarranted. . . .

            I turn first to depictions of hunting. As the Court notes, photographs and videos of hunters shooting game are common. But hunting is legal in all 50 States, and §48 applies only to a depiction of conduct that is illegal in the jurisdiction in which the depiction is created, sold, or possessed. Therefore, in all 50 States, the creation, sale, or possession for sale of the vast majority of hunting depictions indisputably falls outside §48’s reach. . . .

            Applying this canon, I would hold that §48 does not apply to depictions of hunting. First, because §48 targets depictions of “animal cruelty,” I would interpret that term to apply only to depictions involving acts of animal cruelty as defined by applicable state or federal law, not to depictions of acts that happen to be illegal for reasons having nothing to do with the prevention of animal cruelty. Virtually all state laws prohibiting animal cruelty either expressly define the term “animal” to exclude wildlife or else specifically exempt lawful hunting activities, 3 so the statutory prohibition set forth in §48(a) may reasonably be interpreted not to reach most if not all hunting depictions.

            Second, even if the hunting of wild animals were otherwise covered by §48(a), I would hold that hunting depictions fall within the exception in §48(b) for depictions that have “serious” (i.e., not “trifling”) “scientific,” “educational,” or “historical” value. While there are certainly those who find hunting objectionable, the predominant view in this country has long been that hunting serves many important values, and it is clear that Congress shares that view. . . .

            As the Court of Appeals recognized, “the primary conduct that Congress sought to address through its passage [of §48] was the creation, sale, or possession of ‘crush videos.’ “ A sample crush video, which has been lodged with the Clerk, records the following event:


“[A] kitten, secured to the ground, watches and shrieks in pain as a woman thrusts her high-heeled shoe into its body, slams her heel into the kitten’s eye socket and mouth loudly fracturing its skull, and stomps repeatedly on the animal’s head. The kitten hemorrhages blood, screams blindly in pain, and is ultimately left dead in a moist pile of blood-soaked hair and bone.”


It is undisputed that the conduct depicted in crush videos may constitutionally be prohibited. All 50 States and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes prohibiting animal cruelty. But before the enactment of §48, the underlying conduct depicted in crush videos was nearly impossible to prosecute. These videos, which “often appeal to persons with a very specific sexual fetish,” were made in secret, generally without a live audience, and “the faces of the women inflicting the torture in the material often were not shown, nor could the location of the place where the cruelty was being inflicted or the date of the activity be ascertained from the depiction.” Thus, law enforcement authorities often were not able to identify the parties responsible for the torture. In the rare instances in which it was possible to identify and find the perpetrators, they “often were able to successfully assert as a defense that the State could not prove its jurisdiction over the place where the act occurred or that the actions depicted took place within the time specified in the State statute of limitations.”

            In light of the practical problems thwarting the prosecution of the creators of crush videos under state animal cruelty laws, Congress concluded that the only effective way of stopping the underlying criminal conduct was to prohibit the commercial exploitation of the videos of that conduct. And Congress’ strategy appears to have been vindicated. We are told that “[b]y 2007, sponsors of §48 declared the crush video industry dead. Even overseas Websites shut down in the wake of §48. Now, after the Third Circuit’s decision [facially invalidating the statute], crush videos are already back online.”

            The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it most certainly does not protect violent criminal conduct, even if engaged in for expressive purposes. Crush videos present a highly unusual free speech issue because they are so closely linked with violent criminal conduct. . . . The most relevant of our prior decisions is [New York v.] Ferber , which concerned child pornography. The Court there held that child pornography is not protected speech, and I believe that Ferber ’s reasoning dictates a similar conclusion here.

            In Ferber, an important factor—I would say the most important factor—was that child pornography involves the commission of a crime that inflicts severe personal injury to the “children who are made to engage in sexual conduct for commercial purposes.’ . . . Second, Ferber emphasized the fact that these underlying crimes could not be effectively combated without targeting the distribution of child pornography. . . . Third, the Ferber Court noted that the value of child pornography “is exceedingly modest, if not de minimis,” and that any such value was “overwhelmingly outweigh[ed]” by “the evil to be restricted.”

            All three of these characteristics are shared by §48, as applied to crush videos. First, the conduct depicted in crush videos is criminal in every State and the District of Columbia. . . . Second, the criminal acts shown in crush videos cannot be prevented without targeting the conduct prohibited by §48—the creation, sale, and possession for sale of depictions of animal torture with the intention of realizing a commercial profit. Finally, the harm caused by the underlying crimes vastly outweighs any minimal value that the depictions might conceivably be thought to possess.

            It must be acknowledged that §48 differs from a child pornography law in an important respect: preventing the abuse of children is certainly much more important than preventing the torture of the animals used in crush videos. . . . But while protecting children is unquestionably more important than protecting animals, the Government also has a compelling interest in preventing the torture depicted in crush videos.

            In sum, §48 may validly be applied to at least two broad real-world categories of expression covered by the statute: crush videos and dogfighting videos. Thus, the statute has a substantial core of constitutionally permissible applications. Moreover, for the reasons set forth above, the record does not show that §48, properly interpreted, bans a substantial amount of protected speech in absolute terms. A fortiori , respondent has not met his burden of demonstrating that any impermissible applications of the statute are “substantial” in relation to its “plainly legitimate sweep.” Accordingly, I would reject respondent’s claim that §48 is facially unconstitutional under the overbreadth doctrine.


Source: Justices Kennedy and Blackmun, Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993); Justices Roberts and Alito, U.S. v. Stevens (2010).


Questions for Review

1. According to Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, what are the types of animal killing that are deemed necessary according to Florida law?

2. According to Justice Roberts’s majority opinion in U.S. v. Stevens, what is the Federal Government’s case for why its ban on animal cruelty videos does not abridge freedom of speech?

3. According to Justice Roberts’s majority opinion, what is the exception clause to the Federal law against animal cruelty in videos?

4. According to Justice Alito’s dissenting position in U.S. v. Stevens, what was the U.S. Government’s motivation in banning crush videos?

5. According to Justice Alito’s dissenting position, what are the three features of the ban on child pornography in the New York v. Ferber case?


Questions for Analysis

1. As presented in Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, examine the exemption clause in the Federal law against animal cruelty in videos, and discuss whether this sufficiently distinguishes crush videos from hunting videos.

2. According to Justice Blackmun’s concurring position in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, the Court’s decision left open whether “the Free Exercise [of religion] Clause would require a religious exemption from a law that sincerely pursued the goal of protecting animals from cruel treatment.” Discuss how such a case might be decided.

3. A central point in U.S. v. Stevens was that the Federal law against crush videos also applied to hunting videos. The Court held that the law’s problem was with its overly broad wording. An animal rights advocate, though, might argue that resistance to the law stems from the fact that hunting videos and crush videos are essentially the same: both depict the killing of animals for enjoyment. Which of these views is the most correct?

4. One day after the Supreme Court ruled against the Federal law concerning video depictions of animal cruelty, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to revise the law’s wording to make it apply more narrowly to crush videos. Examine the bill (available at thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.5092) and discuss whether the revised wording sufficiently excludes hunting videos.

5. In his dissenting position in U.S. v. Stevens, Justice Alito draws parallels between the ban on child pornography and the proposed ban on crush videos. Explain those parallels and say whether they are sufficient to justify the banning of crush videos.







People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals


With nearly one million members, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization today. Their guiding principle is that “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.” The organization was founded in 1980 by two animal rights advocates who were inspired by Peter Singer’s influential book Animal Liberation. Since its inception, PETA has gained fame for its undercover investigations of animal abuse in laboratories and food production facilities; videos of many of these atrocities are posted on their website. Through their efforts, research and food production facilities have been either shut down or forced to modify policies because of animal mistreatment.

            In the selection below, which is in a question and answer format, PETA defends animal interests on a range of issues. Defending the notion of animal rights, they maintain that Animals should have the right to equal consideration of their interests, for example, they should have the right not to have pain unnecessarily inflicted on them. Experimenting on animals in the name of scientific research, they argue, has no real benefit, and other experimental techniques are more effective than animal testing. Animals unnecessarily suffer in the production of leather, wool, fur and down; for this reason, they maintain, we should not purchase these products. Responsible pet owners should spay and neuter their dogs and cats and allow them outdoors only when walking them on leashes. Zoos, horse races, circuses and rodeos all routinely mistreat animals. Hunting and fishing are not necessary for human survival and these practices cause great animal suffering. A vegetarian diet, they argue, will reduce animal suffering and on the whole is much healthier than a meat-eating diet.



Whether you’re a staunch animal rights advocate, an activist who’s just getting started, or a complete skeptic, you can use these answers to help clarify your understanding of the animal rights movement. The responses presented here are by no means the only answers to these frequently asked questions. They are simply intended to provoke you to think about common assumptions and to serve as a resource as you formulate your own opinions.

            “What do you mean by ‘animal rights’?” People who support animal rights believe that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other purpose and that animals deserve consideration of their best interests regardless of whether they are cute, useful to humans, or endangered and regardless of whether any human cares about them at all (just as a mentally challenged human has rights even if he or she is not cute or useful and even if everyone dislikes him or her).

            “What rights should animals have?” Animals should have the right to equal consideration of their interests. For instance, a dog most certainly has an interest in not having pain inflicted on him or her unnecessarily. We are, therefore, obliged to take that interest into consideration and to respect the dog’s right not to have pain unnecessarily inflicted upon him or her. However, animals don’t always have the same rights as humans because their interests are not always the same as ours, and some rights would be irrelevant to animals. For instance, a dog doesn’t have an interest in voting and, therefore, doesn’t have the right to vote because that right would be as meaningless to a dog as it is to a child.

            “What is the difference between ‘animal rights’ and ‘animal welfare’?” Animal welfare theories accept that animals have interests but allow those interests to be traded away as long as the human benefits are thought to justify the sacrifice, while animal rights theories say that animals, like humans, have interests that cannot be sacrificed or traded away to benefit others. However, the animal rights movement does not hold that rights are absolute -- an animal’s rights, just like those of humans, must be limited and can certainly conflict.

            Supporters of the animal rights movement believe that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation, while supporters of the animal welfare movement believe that animals can be used for those purposes as long as “humane” guidelines are followed.

            “Animals don’t reason, don’t understand rights, and don’t always respect our rights, so why should we apply our ideas of morality to them?” An animal’s inability to understand and adhere to our rules is as irrelevant as a child’s or a person with a developmental disability’s inability to do so. Animals are not always able to choose to change their behaviors, but adult human beings have the intelligence and ability to choose between behaviors that hurt others and behaviors that do not hurt others. When given the choice, it makes sense to choose compassion.

            “Where do you draw the line?” The renowned humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, who accomplished so much for both humans and animals in his lifetime, would take time to stoop and move a worm from hot pavement to cool earth. Aware of the problems and responsibilities that an expanded ethic brings, he said, “A man is really ethical only when he obeys the constraint laid on him to aid all life which he is able to help .… He does not ask how far this or that life deserves sympathy … nor how far it is capable of feeling.” We can’t stop all suffering, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t stop any. In today’s world of virtually unlimited choices, there are plenty of kind, gentle ways for us to feed, clothe, entertain, and educate ourselves that do not involve killing animals.

            “What about plants?” There is currently no reason to believe that plants experience pain because they are devoid of central nervous systems, nerve endings, and brains. It is theorized that animals are able to feel pain so that they can use it for self-protection purposes. For example, if you touch something hot and feel pain, you will learn from the pain that you should not touch that item in the future. Since plants cannot move from place to place and do not need to learn to avoid certain things, this sensation would be superfluous. From a physiological standpoint, plants are completely different from mammals. Unlike animals’ body parts, many perennial plants, fruits, and vegetables can be harvested over and over again without dying.

            “It’s almost impossible to avoid using all animal products; if you’re still causing animal suffering without realizing it, what’s the point?” It is impossible to live without causing some harm. We’ve all accidentally stepped on ants or breathed in gnats, but that doesn’t mean that we should intentionally cause unnecessary harm. You might accidentally hit someone with your car, but that is no reason to run someone over on purpose.

            “How can you justify the millions of dollars of property damage caused by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF)?” Throughout history, some people have felt the need to break the law to fight injustice. The Underground Railroad and the French Resistance are examples of movements in which people broke the law in order to answer to a higher morality. The ALF, which is simply the name adopted by people who act illegally in behalf of animal rights, breaks inanimate objects such as stereotaxic devices and decapitators in order to save lives. ALF members burn empty buildings in which animals are tortured and killed. ALF “raids” have given us proof of horrific cruelty that would not have otherwise been discovered or believed and have resulted in criminal charges’ being filed against laboratories for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Often, ALF raids have been followed by widespread scientific condemnation of the practices occurring in the targeted labs, and some abusive laboratories have been permanently shut down as a result.

            “If using animals is unethical, why does the Bible say that we have dominion over animals?” Dominion is not the same as tyranny. The Queen of England has “dominion” over her subjects, but that doesn’t mean that she can eat them, wear them, or experiment on them. If we have dominion over animals, surely it is to protect them, not to use them for our own ends. There is nothing in the Bible that would justify our modern-day practices, which desecrate the environment, destroy entire species of wildlife, and inflict torment and death on billions of animals every year. The Bible imparts a reverence for life, and a loving God could not help but be appalled by the way that animals are treated today.

            “Animals in cages on factory farms or in laboratories don’t suffer that much because they’ve never known anything else, right?” Wrong! Animals on factory farms and in laboratories are prevented from acting on even the most basic instinctual behaviors, which causes tremendous suffering. Even animals who have been caged since birth feel the need to move around, groom themselves, stretch their limbs or wings, and exercise. Herd animals and flock animals become distressed when they are forced to live in isolation or when they are put in groups that are too large for them to be able to recognize other members. In addition, all confined animals suffer from intense boredom -- some so severely that it can lead to self-mutilation or other self-destructive behavior.

            “Animals are not as intelligent or as advanced as humans, so why can’t we use them?” Possessing superior intelligence does not entitle one human to abuse another human, so why should it entitle humans to abuse nonhumans? There are animals who are unquestionably more intelligent, creative, aware, communicative, and able to use language than some humans, as is the case when a chimpanzee is compared to a human infant or a person with a severe developmental disability. Should the more intelligent animals have rights and the less intelligent humans be denied rights?



“Isn’t animal testing responsible for every major medical advance?”  Medical historians have shown that improved nutrition and sanitation standards and other behavioral and environmental factors -- rather than knowledge gained from animal experiments -- are responsible for the decreasing number of deaths from common infectious diseases since 1900 and that medicine has had little to do with increased life expectancy. Many of the most important advances in the field of health care can be attributed to human studies, which have led to major medical breakthroughs, such as the development of anesthesia, the stethoscope, morphine, radium, penicillin, artificial respiration, x-rays, antiseptics, and CAT, MRI, and PET scans; the study of bacteriology and germ theory; the discovery of the link between cholesterol and heart disease and the link between smoking and cancer; and the isolation of the virus that causes AIDS. Animal testing played no role in these or many other important medical developments.

            “If we didn’t test on animals, how would we conduct medical research?” Human clinical and epidemiological studies, studies on cadavers, and computer simulations are faster, more reliable, less expensive, and more humane than animal tests. Ingenious scientists have used human brain cells to develop a model “microbrain” that can be used to study tumors and have also come up with artificial skin and bone marrow. Instead of killing animals, we can now test irritancy on egg membranes, produce vaccines from cell cultures, and perform pregnancy tests using blood samples. As Gordon Baxter, cofounder of Pharmagene Laboratories -- a company that uses only human tissue and computers to develop and test its drugs -- says, “If you have information on human genes, what’s the point of going back to animals?”

            “Doesn’t animal experimentation help animals by advancing veterinary science?” The point is not whether animal experimentation can be useful to animals or humans; the point is that we do not have the moral right to inflict unnecessary suffering on those who are at our mercy. Saying that it’s acceptable to experiment on animals to advance veterinary science is like saying that it’s acceptable to experiment on poor children to benefit rich ones.

            “Don’t medical students have to dissect animals?” No, they don’t. In fact, more and more medical students are becoming conscientious objectors who choose to learn by assisting experienced surgeons instead of by using animals. In Great Britain, it is against the law for medical students to practice surgery on animals, and British physicians are just as competent as those who were educated elsewhere. Many of the leading U.S. medical schools, including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, now use innovative, clinical teaching methods instead of cruel animal laboratories. Harvard, for instance, offers a cardiac-anesthesia practicum in which students observe human heart bypass operations instead of performing terminal surgery on dogs. The Harvard staff members who developed this practicum have recommended that it be implemented elsewhere.  

            “Should we throw out all the drugs that were developed and tested on animals? Would you refuse to take them?” Unfortunately, a number of things in our society came about through the exploitation of others. For instance, many of the roads that we drive on were built by slaves. We can’t change the past; those who have already suffered and died are lost. But what we can do is change the future by using non-animal research methods from now on.

            “Doesn’t the law protect animals from cruelty?” There is no law in the U.S. that prohibits any animal experiment, no matter how frivolous or painful. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is very weak and poorly enforced, and it does not protect rats and mice (the most common victims of animal experiments), cold-blooded animals, birds, or animals who are traditionally used for food. It is basically a housekeeping act that does not prohibit any type of animal experimentation. Under the AWA, animals can be starved, electrically shocked, driven insane, or burned with a blowtorch -- as long as it’s done in a clean laboratory.

            “Would you support an experiment that would sacrifice 10 animals to save 10,000 people?” No. Look at it another way: Suppose that the only way to save 10,000 people was to experiment on one mentally challenged orphan. If saving people is the goal, wouldn’t that be worth it? Most people would agree that it would be wrong to sacrifice one human for the “greater good” of others because it would violate that individual’s rights, but when it comes to sacrificing animals, the assumption is that human beings have rights and animals do not. Yet there is no logical reason to deny animals the same rights that protect individual humans from being sacrificed for the common good.



“What’s wrong with wearing leather? Aren’t the cows going to be slaughtered for meat anyway?” This is a common misconception concerning leather, but leather is not simply a slaughterhouse byproduct. According to industry sources, the skins of the animals represent “the most economically important byproduct of the meat packing industry.”

            When dairy cows’ production declines, for example, their skin is made into leather, and the hides of their offspring, calves raised for veal, are made into high-priced calfskin. Thus, the economic success of the slaughterhouse (and the factory farm) is directly linked to the sale of leather goods. Decreasing demand for both animal foods and leather products will reduce the number of cows who suffer and are killed on factory farms. There are so many alternatives to leather, why support unnecessary cruelty?

            “What’s wrong with wearing wool?” As with other industries in which animals are raised for profit, the interests of the animals used in the wool industry are rarely considered. Flocks usually consist of thousands of sheep, so providing individual attention to their needs is virtually impossible. Many people believe that shearing sheep helps animals who might otherwise be burdened with too much wool, but without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes.

            Most wool comes from Australia. Just weeks after birth, lambs’ ears are hole-punched, their tails are chopped off, and males are castrated -- all without anesthetics. Male lambs are castrated when they are between 2 and 8 weeks old with a rubber ring that is used to cut off their blood supply -- one of the most painful methods of castration possible. Many lambs die from exposure or starvation before they are 8 weeks old, and many mature sheep die from disease, lack of shelter, and neglect.

            To prevent “flystrike,” Australian ranchers perform a barbarous operation called “mulesing,” which involves carving huge strips of skin and flesh off the backs of unanesthetized lambs’ legs. When shearing, speed is everything. Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages quick and careless work. Says one eyewitness, “The shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals. I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or fists until the sheep’s noses bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off.”

            “Is the fur industry really as cruel as people make it out to be?” It’s even crueler. PETA’s investigations at fur farms have found that some animals are killed by anal electrocution, meaning that an electrically charged steel rod is inserted into their rectums, literally frying their insides. Exposed broken bones, upper respiratory infections, and cancerous tumors were among the wounds and diseases that animals endured -- without veterinary treatment -- on one fur farm that we investigated.

            Animals caught in steel-jaw leghold traps are in so much pain that some actually bite off their limbs in order to escape. Unable to eat, keep warm, or defend themselves against predators, many die horrible deaths before the trapper arrives to kill them. Others suffer in the traps for days until they are caught and killed. To avoid damaging the pelt, trappers often beat or stomp the animals to death. Most states have no regulations regarding methods of slaughtering these animals.

            Whether enduring the excruciating pain of a leghold trap or a lifetime of agony in a tiny cage, the animals suffer immensely.

            “How is down obtained?” Typically, ducks and geese are lifted by their necks, their legs are tied, and their feathers are ripped out. The struggling birds often sustain injuries during plucking. They are then returned to their cages until they are ready to be plucked again. This process begins at about 9 weeks of age and occurs every 6 weeks until the birds go to slaughter.

            Feathers are often plucked out of ducks and geese who are raised for food. Those raised for foie gras, especially, suffer terribly. They are force-fed up to six times a day with a funnel that is inserted into their throats, and up to 6 pounds of a salty, fatty corn mash is pumped into each bird’s stomach each day -- until the birds’ livers have ballooned to four times their normal size.

            Synthetic alternatives to down are not only cruelty-free, they are also cheaper and, unlike down, retain their insulating capabilities in all weather conditions.



“Does PETA believe that people shouldn’t have pets?” The earliest fossils that resemble the bones of modern dogs are about 12,000 years old, so we know that humans’ fascination with domesticated wolves began at least that long ago. About 5,000 years ago, Egyptians became the first to tame cats, whom they used to control the rodent population. Since then, the breeding and care of cats and dogs has exploded into a love affair, a sport, and a booming business. This international pastime has created an overpopulation crisis, and as a result, every year, millions of unwanted animals suffer at the hands of abusers, languish in shelters, and are euthanized. Adopting a cat or dog from a shelter and providing a loving home is a small but powerful way to prevent some of this suffering. The most important thing that animal guardians can do is to spay or neuter their animals and avoid buying animals from breeders or pet stores, which contribute to the overpopulation crisis.

            “If I am able to find homes for all the kittens or puppies, why shouldn’t I allow my cat or dog to have a litter?” While your intentions may be good, there’s no way of knowing what will happen to the animals once they have been adopted. This year, millions of healthy, wonderful animals will go through the front doors of shelters -- and go out the back doors in body bags. Many more will be abandoned on the streets. All this misery and death could be prevented through spaying and neutering (surgical sterilization). Every stray cat and neglected dog came from an animal who had not been spayed or neutered.

            “Don’t puppies in pet stores need homes just as much as puppies at animal shelters? Besides, how else can I choose the breed?” Many of the dogs sold in pet shops come from puppy mills and breeding kennels. In puppy mills, female dogs are kept in crude, outdoor cages without protection from rain, sweltering heat, bitter cold, or biting winds. They are denied companionship and comfort and treated like breeding machines. Their puppies are taken from them at an early age, packed into crates, and shipped hundreds of miles to dealers, often without adequate food, water, or ventilation. Poor breeding practices lead to numerous health problems, including distemper, parvovirus, respiratory conditions, physical deformities, deafness, eye diseases, and a host of other ailments.

            Once puppies arrive at pet stores, life in cramped cages adds more strain to their already stressed lives, increasing their susceptibility to disease. No law regulates how pet shops must dispose of animals, and some stores have been caught killing unsold dogs on the premises and throwing them into Dumpsters. While breeders churn out millions of puppies each year, millions of animals are killed for want of a good home. Dogs are dumped at local pounds or abandoned in the woods and on city streets. Animal shelters are able to find loving homes for only a fraction of the animals they receive, and the rest must be put to death. Because of the overpopulation crisis, there is no such thing as “responsible” breeding.

            “What is PETA’s position on euthanasia?” Every day in the United States, tens of thousands of puppies and kittens are born. Compare this to the 11,000 human births each day, and it’s clear that there will never be enough homes for all these animals. Shelters are stuck with the heart-rending job of dealing with unwanted animals. People who refuse to spay and neuter their animals, those who abandon animals when they grow tired of them, and those who patronize pet shops instead of adopting stray animals or animals from shelters make euthanasia a tragic necessity.

            “Isn’t it better to declaw a cat than to give him or her away?” If you asked your cats if it would be OK to put them through 10 separate, painful amputations that would weaken their legs, shoulders, and back muscles, they would probably say “no” -- and they wouldn’t be alone. Many veterinarians in the U.S. and abroad refuse to declaw cats. In fact, in Germany and some other parts of Europe, declawing is illegal. Cats who have been declawed experience extreme pain when they awake after surgery and have difficulty walking until their paws heal. Without their claws, cats are virtually defenseless, and this can lead to neuroses and even skin and bladder problems.

            With the aid of a scratching post and firm, consistent instructions about where they may and may not scratch, cats can easily be taught not to scratch furniture.

            “What’s wrong with chaining dogs outside? Isn’t that better than having them run loose outside?” Condemning a dog to solitary confinement on a chain is so cruel that it is illegal in some cities. Chained dogs are exposed to searing heat, bitter cold, rain, and wind, putting them at risk for heat exhaustion, frostbite, and exposure-related health problems. Chains can wrap around trees or other objects, water bowls can easily tip over, and food can quickly spoil in summer or freeze in winter.

            Chained dogs often become overly fearful of intruders and overly protective of their tiny patches of ground. They are easy targets for cruel people who taunt and tease them, and as a result, many chained dogs become defensive and untrusting. Not surprisingly, dogs who spend much of their lives outside on chains often become dangerous, while dogs who are well socialized and supervised rarely bite.

            Perhaps worst of all, chained dogs are terribly lonely. They are pack animals who long to love, live with, and be loved by their human families. Denying a dog companionship is so cruel that some dogs are actually driven crazy by their loneliness. It’s best for everyone when dogs are treated as treasured family members.

            “Why shouldn’t cats be allowed outdoors to explore and exercise?” Cats should be allowed outdoors for walks on leashes, just as dogs are, and to explore securely fenced yards. A product called Cat Fence-In, a flexible mesh barrier that can be placed on the tops of privacy fences to prevent cats from climbing out, can help you keep your companions safe in your yard.

            Like dogs or small children, cats who are let outdoors without supervision are vulnerable to the dangers of cars, other animals, cruel people, and disease. Feline leukemia, feline AIDS (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), toxoplasmosis, distemper, heartworms, and rabies can be difficult to detect and, in the case of FIP and distemper, impossible to test for. Most of these ailments are highly contagious and can easily be passed on to other companion animals.

            Many people consider free-roaming cats to be pests. They do not want cats to urinate, defecate, dig, eat plants, or kill birds on their properties. Free-roaming cats have been shot, poisoned, and stolen by angry neighbors.

            Fortunately, cats can live happy lives indoors.

            “What’s wrong with keeping birds in cages?” All caged birds have either been captured or captive-bred. In the wild, these beautiful beings are never alone, and if they are separated from their flock, even for a moment, they call wildly to their flockmates. These social animals preen each other, fly together, play, and share egg-incubation duties. Many species of birds mate for life and share parenting tasks. In the wild, most birds will not take a second mate if they lose their first.

            Life in captivity is often a death sentence for birds, who may suffer from malnutrition, loneliness, and the stress of confinement in improper environments. Birds are meant to fly and be with others of their own kind in a natural environment.



            “Don’t zoos teach children important lessons about wildlife?” No, zoos claim to educate people about animals, but small enclosures do not allow animals to display their natural behaviors, and signs typically tell visitors little more than the names of the animals, where they can be found, and what they eat.

            Animals’ normal behaviors are seldom discussed -- much less observed -- at zoos because their natural needs are rarely met in zoo environments. Many animals who live in large herds or family groups in the wild are kept alone or, at most, in pairs at zoos. Natural hunting and mating behaviors are virtually eliminated by regulated feeding and breeding regimens. Animals at zoos lack privacy and have little opportunity for mental stimulation or physical exercise. These conditions cause them to exhibit abnormal, self-destructive behaviors called zoochosis.

            Many zoo officials focus on profits rather than the well-being of the animals. A former director of the Atlanta Zoo once remarked that he was “too far removed from the animals; they’re the last thing I worry about with all the other problems.” Zoos teach people that it is acceptable to keep animals in captivity, where they are bored, cramped, lonely, far from their natural homes, and at the mercy and whim of people.

            “Don’t zoos help preserve endangered species?” Most animals in zoos are not endangered or being prepared for release into natural habitats. In fact, it is nearly impossible to release captive-bred animals into the wild. A report by the World Society for the Protection of Animals showed that only 1,200 out of the 10,000 zoos worldwide are registered for captive breeding and wildlife conservation and that only 2 percent of the world’s threatened or endangered species are registered in breeding programs.

            Rather than nurturing animals to thrive in natural settings, zoos place very unnatural restrictions on their residents. For example, in zoos, polar bears are typically confined to spaces that are only one-millionth the size of their minimum home range in the wild. Animals who roam across large distances in nature often exhibit dementia and stereotypical behaviors from boredom when placed in zoo enclosures, endlessly pacing or swimming in circles.

            Ultimately, we will only save endangered species by preserving their habitats and protecting them from hunters -- not by breeding a few individuals in captivity. Instead of supporting zoos, we should support groups like the International Primate Protection League, the Born Free Foundation, the African Wildlife Foundation, and other organizations that work to preserve habitats, and we should help nonprofit sanctuaries, like Primarily Primates and the Performing Animal Welfare Society, that rescue and care for exotic animals without selling or breeding them.

            “Aren’t racehorses treated well so that they’ll perform better?” Sadly, for many equine athletes, injury and death are always just a hoofbeat away. One study on racetrack injuries concluded that one horse in every 22 races suffered an injury that prevented him or her from finishing the race, and another study estimated that 800 thoroughbreds die from injuries every year in North America. Over time, selective breeding has made thoroughbreds’ legs far too fragile for their bodies. Most thoroughbreds are owned by corporations that are only interested in the money that the animals can make for them, and such owners don’t hesitate to sell horses to slaughterhouse “kill buyers” when they break down.

            “I love seeing animals at the circus, and they don’t seem to mind performing, so why is PETA against the use of animals in circuses?” In his book, The Circus Kings, Ringling Bros. founder Henry Ringling North noted that at circuses, tigers and lions are “chained to their pedestals, and ropes are put around their necks to choke them down and make them obey. All sorts of other brutalities are used to force them to respect their trainer and learn their tricks. They work from fear.”

            He also wrote that trainers commonly break bears’ noses or burn their paws to force them to stand on their hind legs and that monkeys and chimpanzees are struck with clubs while they scream.

            The fact is, animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, or jump through rings of fire. To force them to perform these confusing and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade.

            We applaud trapeze artists, jugglers, clowns, tightrope walkers, and acrobats, but let’s leave animals in peace. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, India, Switzerland, and the U.K. have all banned or restricted the use of animals in entertainment -- it’s time for the U.S. to do the same.  

            “What’s wrong with rodeos?”  In order to make them perform, normally docile cows and horses are beaten, kicked, and shocked while they are in their chutes and holding pens. “Bucking broncos” and steers are provoked with electric prods, sharp sticks, caustic ointments, and the pinching “bucking” strap so that the animals are frantic by the time they are released into the arena. Calves, who are roped while they are running, have their necks snapped back by the lasso, which often results in neck and back injuries, bruises, broken bones, and internal bleeding.

            After their short and painful “careers,” animals in rodeos are sent to the slaughterhouse. Dr. C.G. Haber, a veterinarian who spent 30 years as a federal meat inspector, described the animals discarded from rodeos for slaughter as being “so extensively bruised that the only areas in which the skin was attached [to the flesh] were the head, neck, leg, and belly. I have seen animals with six to eight ribs broken from the spine and, at times, puncturing the lungs. I have seen as much as 2 to 3 gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin.”



            “Without hunting, wouldn’t deer and other animals overpopulate and die of starvation?” Starvation and disease are unfortunate, but they are nature’s way of ensuring that the strong survive. Natural predators help keep prey species strong by killing only the sick and weak. Hunters, however, kill any animal they come across or any animal whose head they think would look good mounted above the fireplace -- often the large, healthy animals needed to keep the population strong. And hunting creates the ideal conditions for overpopulation. After hunting season, the abrupt drop in population leads to less competition among survivors, resulting in a higher birth rate.

            If we were really concerned about keeping animals from starving, we would not hunt but instead take steps to reduce the animals’ fertility. We would also preserve wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, and other natural predators. Ironically, many deer herds and duck populations are purposely manipulated to produce more and more animals for hunters to kill.

            “Isn’t hunting OK as long as I eat what I kill?” Did the fact that Jeffrey Dahmer ate his victims justify his crimes? What is done with a corpse after its murder doesn’t lessen the victim’s suffering.

            Furthermore, hunters are harming animals other than the ones they kill and take home. Those who don’t die outright often suffer disabling injuries. Additionally, the stress that hunting inflicts on animals -- the noise, the fear, and the chase -- severely restricts their ability to eat adequately and store the fat and energy that they need to survive the winter.

            Hunting also disrupts migration and hibernation. And for animals like wolves, who mate for life and have close-knit families, hunting can severely harm entire communities.

            “What about people who have to hunt to survive?” We have no quarrel with subsistence hunters and fishers who truly have no choice in order to survive. However, in this day and age, meat, fur, and leather are not a necessary part of survival for the vast majority of us.

            Unfortunately, many “sport” hunters have borrowed from aboriginal tradition and manipulated it into a justification for killing animals for recreation or profit.

            “Is recreational fishing OK if the fish are released after being caught?” Unfortunately, people who practice “catch and release” fishing cause no less harm to fish than do other anglers. Fish who are caught and then returned to the water suffer such severe physiological stress that they often die of shock, or their injuries may make them easy targets for predators.

            Fish often swallow a hook so deeply that to remove it, the fishers shove their fingers or pliers down the fish’s throat and, along with the hook, rip out some of the fish’s throat and guts. We can appreciate nature and bond with friends and family without hurting animals.



            “The animals have to die sometime, so what’s wrong with eating them?” Humans die, too, but that doesn’t give you the right to kill them or cause them a lifetime of suffering.

            “Why should I feel bad about eating meat? I didn’t kill the animal.” You may not have killed the animal yourself, but you hired the killer. Whenever you purchase meat, the killing was done for you, and you paid for it.

            “What will we do with all the chickens, cows, and pigs if everyone becomes a vegetarian?” It is unrealistic to expect that everyone will stop eating animals overnight. As the demand for meat decreases, fewer animals will be raised for food. Farmers will stop breeding so many animals and will turn to other types of agriculture. When there are fewer of these animals, they will be able to live more natural lives.

            “If everyone became vegetarian, many animals would never even be born. Isn’t that worse for them?” Life on factory farms is so miserable that it is hard to imagine that we are doing animals a favor by bringing them into that type of existence and then confining them, tormenting them, and slaughtering them.

            “If everyone only ate vegetables and grains, would there be enough to eat?” Yes. We feed so much grain to animals to fatten them for consumption that if we all became vegetarians, we could produce enough food to feed everyone on Earth. In the U.S., animals raised for food are fed 70 percent of the corn, wheat, and other grains that we grow. The world’s cattle consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people -- more than the entire human population.

            “Animals kill other animals for food, so why shouldn’t we?” Most animals who kill for food could not survive if they didn’t, but that is not the case for humans. In fact, we would be better off if we didn’t eat meat. Many animals, including some of our closest primate relatives, are vegetarians. We should look to them, rather than to carnivores, as models of healthy eating.

            “Aren’t humans natural carnivores?” Actually, a vegetarian diet suits the human body better than a diet that includes meat. Carnivorous animals have claws, short digestive tracts, and long, curved fangs. Humans have flat, flexible nails, and our so-called “canine” teeth are minuscule compared to those of carnivores and even compared to vegetarian primates like gorillas and orangutans. Our tiny canine teeth are better suited to biting into fruits than tearing through tough hides. We have flat molars and long digestive tracts that are suited to diets of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Eating meat is hazardous to our health and contributes to heart disease, cancer, and many other health problems.

            “Don’t humans have to eat meat to stay healthy?” Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Dietetic Association have endorsed vegetarian diets. Studies have also shown that vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels than meat-eaters and are far less likely to die of heart disease or cancer. The consumption of meat and dairy products has been conclusively linked with diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, clogged arteries, obesity, asthma, and impotence.

            “Don’t vegetarians have difficulty getting enough protein?” In Western countries, our problem is that we get too much protein, not too little. Most Americans get at least twice as much protein as they need, and too much protein, especially animal protein, can increase your risk of osteoporosis and kidney disease.

            You can get enough protein from whole wheat bread, oatmeal, beans, corn, peas, mushrooms, or broccoli -- almost every food contains protein. Unless you eat a great deal of junk food, it’s almost impossible to eat as many calories as you need for good health without getting enough protein.

            “Don’t farmers treat their animals well so they’ll produce more milk or eggs?” Animals on factory farms gain weight, lay eggs, or produce milk not because they are well cared for, comfortable, and content but because their bodies have been manipulated with medications, hormones, genetics, and management techniques. In addition, animals raised for food are slaughtered when they are extremely young, usually before disease and misery decimate them. Factory farmers raise such huge numbers of animals for food that it is less expensive for them to absorb some losses than it is for them to provide humane conditions.  

            “Don’t dairy cows need to be milked?” In order for a cow to produce milk, she must have a calf. Each “dairy cow” is impregnated every year so that she continues to produce a steady supply of milk. In nature, the mother’s calf would drink her milk, eliminating the need for her to be milked by humans, but on factory farms, calves are taken away from their mothers when they are just a day or two old so that humans can have the milk that nature intended for the calves. Female calves are slaughtered immediately or raised to be dairy cows. Male calves are confined for 16 weeks to tiny veal crates that are so small that they cannot even turn around.

            Because of the high demand for dairy products, cows are genetically engineered and fed growth hormones to force them to produce quantities of milk that are well beyond their natural limits. Even the few farmers who choose not to raise animals intensively must get rid of the calves, who would otherwise drink the milk, and send the mothers off to slaughter when their milk production wanes.

            “Chickens lay eggs naturally, so what’s wrong with eating eggs?” The real cruelty of egg production lies in the treatment of the “laying” hens, who are perhaps the most abused of all factory-farmed animals. Each egg from a factory farm represents about 34 hours of misery and came from a hen who was packed into a cage the size of a filing-cabinet drawer with as many as five other chickens. At factory farms, cages are stacked many tiers high, and feces from the top rows fall onto the chickens below. Hens become lame and develop osteoporosis because they are forced to remain immobile and because they lose a great deal of calcium when they repeatedly produce egg shells. Some birds’ feet grow around the wire cage floors, and they starve to death because they are unable to reach the food trough. At just 2 years of age, most hens are “spent” and are sent to the slaughterhouse. Egg hatcheries don’t have any use for male chicks, so they are suffocated, decapitated, crushed, or ground up alive.

            “Can fish feel pain?” Research has shown that fish can feel pain. According to Dr. Donald Bloom, animal welfare advisor to the British government, “Anatomically, physiologically, and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.” Fish have fully developed brains and nervous systems and very sensitive mouths. Fish use their tongues and mouths like humans use their hands -- to catch or gather food, build nests, and hide their offspring from danger. Fish also experience fear. An Australian study found that when fish are chased, confined, or otherwise threatened, they react with increased heart and breathing rates and a burst of adrenaline, just as humans do.


Source: PETA, “Frequently Asked Questions,” www.peta.org, January 1, 2005.


Questions for Review

1. Describe PETA’s position on animal rights.

2. PETA maintains that no real benefit comes from experimentation on animals. What evidence do they present to back up their claim?

3. What is wrong with using animals for clothing, such as with leather, wool, fur and down? Give some examples.

4. What does PETA recommend regarding the protection of endangered species?

5. What is wrong with hunting and fishing? Give some examples.

6. What are some of the health benefits to vegetarian diets?


Questions for Analysis

1. PETA maintains that they would not sacrifice 10 animals if it would save 10,000 people. Defend or refute this position

2. PETA maintains that euthanizing unwanted animals is an unfortunate necessity. Defend or refute this position.

3. PETA opposes zoos, horse racing, circuses, and rodeos. Try to justify some of these entertainment practices taking into account PETA’s criticisms.

4. PETA has no objection to aboriginal cultures hunting animals for survival. Is this position inconsistent with their opposition to hunting in modern societies? Argue on one side of this issue or the other.

5. PETA’s main arguments for veganism are based on the suffering that is caused to animals through milk and egg production. Assume that these were produced in a humane way. What other ethical reasons might there be for veganism?








Jerry Vlasak and John E. Lewis


The term “Animal rights extremism” refers to the endorsement or commission of violent or criminal actions in pursuit of animal rights. Advocates of this position sometimes call themselves animal rights activists” or “animal liberators”, while the U.S. government calls them “animal enterprise terrorists”. In 2006 the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was passed by Congress and signed into law to better enable the prosecution of those who commit criminal acts against “a commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, education, research, or testing.” The heart of the new law is this:


Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or uses or causes to be used the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce— (1) for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise; and (2) in connection with such purpose— (A) intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise, or any real or personal property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise; (B) intentionally places a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family (as defined in section 115) of that person, or a spouse or intimate partner of that person by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation; or (C) conspires or attempts to do so; shall be punished as provided for in subsection (b). [U.S. Code, 18.43]


Selections below are from a 2005 Senate committee hearing pertaining to the passage of this bill. The hearing focuses specifically on a major animal research laboratory, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), and violent acts against that laboratory by the animal rights organization Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC).

            In his opening comments, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe (committee chairman and bill sponsor) states that SHAC pursues its agenda “by using extremely dangerous and frightening tactics, including the use of bombs, arson, violence against people and property, intimidation, and harassment.” In defense of SHAC’s activities is physician Jerry Vlasak, who on an earlier occasion infamously stated that assassinating animal researchers would be a morally acceptable tactic if it saved the lives of millions of animals. In his testimony, Vlasak argues that HLS kills 500 animals a day, poisoning and torturing them to death with household products, pesticides, drugs, herbicides, food colorings, sweeteners, oven cleaner and cosmetics. Against SHAC, John E. Lewis, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, explains the tactics that SHAC uses and how they were hard to prosecute under the current laws at the time. A principle problem, Lewis explains, is that SHAC pursues secondary or tertiary targets, that is, companies or people who “do not directly interact with animals, but who have business ties with companies which do,” such as pharmaceutical companies and investors. During the question and answer session, Vlasak defends his position on the morally equality of animals and humans, and on the assassination of animal researchers. Opposing him are Senator Inhofe and New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. Shortly after the passage of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, Vlasak commented to a reporter that the law would not curtail animal activists: “As far as the underground liberation movement, it won't have any impact at all because they don't really care about those laws. Their activities -- sabotaging, liberating animals -- are already illegal so just adding one more law won't make much difference” (“Bill Targets Animal Activists,” United Press International, Nov. 14, 2006).



Today, the Committee on Environment and Public Works will discuss the committee's investigation into eco-terrorism. This hearing is the second hearing we have had on this subject.

            We will focus on Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, “SHAC,” a radical animal rights organization that relies on crimes of violence and a campaign of fear to convey their message of animal liberation. SHAC evolved with the purpose of ruining a contract research organization called Huntingdon Life Sciences. We will refer to that as HLS, also known as Life Science Research, a New Jersey-based company that conducts EPA and FDA mandated testing on animals. This testing may someday provide a cure for cancer, AIDS, blindness and the possibilities are endless, as we, the Congress, have determined that this testing is necessary to ensure the safety of our consumers. . . .

            SHAC is able to effectively bully companies by using extremely dangerous and frightening tactics, including the use of bombs, arson, violence against people and property, intimidation, and harassment. We have a chart that depicts the HLS CEO who was attacked with a baseball bat by SHAC. That is on my side of the two charts, you can see his head is bleeding profusely. He was near death at that time.

            SHAC calls these tactics direct actions, and its level of violence and propensity for harm has led the FBI to include SHAC, along with the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front, as the most serious domestic terrorist threat today, having committed over 1,200 acts of terror and over $200 million in damages.

            There is a need for tighter, yet concise legislation to curb this criminal activity that, up to date, has been impervious to law enforcement authorities. Such legislation will close the gaps in the criminal code that have allowed SHAC, working with multiple other animal rights groups, the freedom to terrorize people.

            Mark Bibi, general counsel for HLS, will inform us about not only the years of terror that HLS executives, scientists, and other employees and their family members have endured as SHAC's primary target, but also the costs associated with operating a research entity because of SHAC. Notice the chart that illustrates multiple scientists' homes that were attacked, coupled with the loss of research, loss of scientists and security costs of the interference with HLS' ability to compete in the financial markets. . . .

            Appeasing these groups only validates the effectiveness of their tactics and inspires them to replicate this model of activism in some other venue. What then will happen when the activists move to the timber industry or the defense industry or some other controversial industry? . . .

            Finally, the committee will hear from animal rights activist, Dr. Jerry Vlasak. Dr. Vlasak is highly controversial, since he has gone on record advocating the end of biomedical research using animals by any means possible, including assassination--that's murder--of scientists. In fact, Dr. Vlasak has been banned from the United Kingdom for such volatile statements.

            We need to understand and assess the dangers associated with the research culture that is under attack. If researchers do not receive protection and the opportunities to fairly compete, will they leave the United States for places like China and India? These are questions we must seek the answers to in order to determine the best response to this troubling issue.

            Consequently, I am introducing legislation today that will assist law enforcement in their plight to combat the criminally-based SHAC campaign that targets innocent and necessary actors in an industry that promotes innovation and discovery.



My name is Dr. Jerry Vlasak. I am a practicing trauma surgeon, but more importantly, for today's purpose, I am here as a press officer with the North American Animal Liberation Press Office.

            The actions of activists who care enough about animals to speak out in no uncertain times and at times to risk their own lives and freedom have a message that is most urgent and one that deserves to be heard and understood. Often, acts of animal liberation either go unreported in the media or are uncritically vilified as violent or terrorist, with no attention paid to the suffering the industries and individuals gratuitously inflict upon animals. The Press Office seeks to clarify the motivation and philosophy behind these actions taken in defense of our animal brothers and sisters.

            Huntingdon Life Sciences kills 500 animals a day. That is over 180,000 animals per year. They carry out experiments which involve poisoning and torturing animals to death with household products, pesticides, drugs, herbicides, food colorings, sweeteners, oven cleaner and cosmetics. HLS is a contract testing company that operates facilities in the United Kingdom and New Jersey. They have been infiltrated and exposed in undercover investigations five times in recent years by journalists and animal rights campaigners. Each time, horrific evidence of animal abuse and staff incompetence has been uncovered, including workers punching beagle puppies in the face, simulating sex with animals in their care, dissecting primates while they are still alive and falsifying experiments to get their client's product on the market.

            Two brief examples of the horrific and unscientific testing done at Huntingdon Life Sciences include the following. An estimated 12,800 animals died in the research of the sugar substitute, Splenda, including pregnant rabbits, beagle dogs and primates. Splenda was forced down the throats of beagles who were then killed by exsanguination, having their throats slit.

            A 2003 experiment on a refrigeration component that has long been banned from production forced 7-month-old beagle puppies to inhale the pollutant, eventually leading to their deaths. On a daily basis, animals used in vivisection at places like HLS are drowned, suffocated, starved to death, they have their limbs severed and their organs crushed; they are burned, exposed to radiation, used in experimental surgeries; they are shocked, raised in isolation, exposed to weapons of mass destruction and rendered blind or paralyzed.

            They are given heart attacks, ulcers, paralysis, and seizures. They are forced to inhale tobacco smoke, drink alcohol and ingest various drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. And in my very own town of Los Angeles, primates are now being forced to ingest the drug ecstasy.

            The campaign to stop Huntingdon animal cruelty was set up at the end of 1999 by a group of activists who had successfully closed down numerous other facilities that bred cats and dogs for experimentation. It's important to realize that SHAC is not just one group or a hierarchical entity, but it is an ideology, a paradigm shift, if you will, in the way the public views the atrocities perpetrated by companies such as HLS. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have joined to protest the evil perpetrated upon innocent animals in HLS labs.

            While some groups like SHAC USA are legal, incorporated non-profit organizations, other groups are just loosely knit, caring individuals of like mind. It's ridiculous to think that SHAC is one group with a top-down organization that controls all activities in the 18 countries worldwide where it is currently active.

            In summary, there are thousands of physicians like myself worldwide who realize there is no need to experiment on animals in order to help humans, the vast majority of whom get sick and die because of already known preventable lifestyle variables such as diet, smoking, drugs, and environmental toxins. In a country where 45 million people have no access to medical care, in a world where 20,000 children are dying from lack of clean water every single week, there is no reason to waste hundreds of millions of dollars doing unscientific drug testing and experimenting on animals.

            Huntingdon is the poster child of an abhorrent, unnecessary and wasteful industry that not only murders millions of innocent, suffering animals, but dooms countless humans to their own unnecessary suffering, because scarce health care dollars are wasted on useless animal research and testing. The struggle for animal liberation needs to be seen in an historical context, like the Boston Tea Party ignited a revolution, like Nelson Mandela and his fight against apartheid, like the suffragettes and John Brown, all of these noble and historical figures fought the governmental powers of oppression, slavery and exploitation.

            Today, groups like SHAC USA and other SHAC activists around the world fight legally to end these needless atrocities and the ALF and other groups fight underground for the same purpose. This struggle will go down in history as one of the most moral ever fought.

            Regarding the proposed legislation that I heard Mr. Sabin and others mention, I remind you of the quote by John F. Kennedy, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”




Two Targets of Animal Rights Extremists

I am here today to speak to you about how members of the animal rights extremist movement advance their cause by using so-called direct action against individuals, as well as companies. I see disturbing signs of success in what they are doing, and legitimate business enterprises are suffering.

            I will also touch on the limitations of existing statutes and the need to amend legislation if there is agreement that more needs to be done to address this problem.

            When I was last here in May, I spoke of direct action taking many forms, to include harassment and intimidation of an escalating nature, vandalism also of an escalating nature, and more severe criminal actions, such as the use of improvised incendiary and explosive devices.

            There are two types of targets today in the cross-hairs of animal rights extremists who are on the receiving end of the so-called direct action. The first includes individuals and companies which directly interact with animals, such as is the case with our medical research industry. The second type is individuals and companies which do not directly interact with animals, but who have business ties with companies which do.

            The direct actions carried out by those associated with the animal extremist movement are very definitely executed to harass, intimidate, destroy property, inflict economic harm, with the ultimate aim of terminating normal business operations. Within the animal rights extremist movement, we are currently seeing a significant amount of direct action activity that we are unable to effectively address given the Federal statutes we have to work with.

            This activity involves the targeting of secondary or tertiary companies which have business or financial relationships with another principal target. This activity typically takes the form of and begins with harassment of employees through telephonic contact, e-mail or in person. This kind of harassment escalates if the desired effect is not reached and can quickly involve into intimidation and legitimate concerns for physical safety.

            In other cases, we have seen vandalism used to make a point, followed by contact with business principals to make sure they understand there is more to follow if the animal rights extremists' demands are not met.

            The point of this activity, very successfully executed in recent cases, I might add, is to force business owners to sever ties with the principal target, an act that disrupts business and one that can inflict serious economic damage. The Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign, best known as SHAC, is best known for this tactic. SHAC, as you are aware, has since its inception, targeted Huntingdon Life Sciences, both in the United Kingdom and here in the United States. Their overriding goal is to put HLS out of business by whatever means necessary, to include violent means.

            Although they have not been successful, there is no doubt that HLS has suffered significantly from a financial point. SHAC has made it their business to target companies that are affiliated with HLS, from pharmaceutical companies to builders to investors. It is not enough to say that SHAC targets companies, that is not personal enough. SHAC targets people, individuals in these companies, men and women who hold management positions and on occasion their family members. SHAC has used a variety of tactics to intimidate these affiliated companies, employees, family members, to include bombings, death threats, vandalism, office invasions, home visits with and without vandalism, phone blockades and denial of service attacks on their computer systems and the like.


Examples of Effectiveness

I can report to you today that this strategy has been quite effective. SHAC has forced well over 100 companies to sever ties with HLS, including Aetna Insurance, CitiBank, Deloitte and Touche, Johnson and Johnson, Merck and others. Their current target list includes GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Novartis, UPS, as well as multiple financial institutional investors.

            Let me give you a couple of examples here, and I think we have gone over some of these before. In August 2003, two explosive devices were detonated at the Chiron Corporation out in California. A month later, an improvised explosive device exploded at the headquarters of the Shaklee Corporation, also in California. The second device that detonated at Chiron was timed to go off later than the first, and in my view, an apparent strike at first responders.

            At Shaklee, that device was constructed with nails, to significantly increase its lethality to anyone in the area at time of detonation. That claim of responsibility that followed indicated that all customers and their families are considered legitimate targets, no more will all the killing be done by the oppressors, now the oppressed will strike back.

            In another more recent example, just last month an incendiary device was left on the front porch of a senior executive at GlaxoSmithKline in England. GlaxoSmithKline is one of SHAC's main targets. It was Animal Liberation Front, in this particular case, that claimed responsibility. In their message, they wrote: “This is just the beginning. We have identified and tracked down many of your senior executives and also your junior staff. Drop HLS or you will face the consequences.”

            Last month, Huntingdon Life Sciences entered into a business relationship with the New York firm Carr Securities. Carr is a market maker and intended to market HLS stock. On the very day following its first series of transactions, SHAC vandalized the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club. The Yacht Club was vandalized because certain Carr executives are believed to be associated with that club. Three days after this incident, Carr Securities terminated its business relationship with HLS, and did so with a public announcement that is still on the Internet today.

            An investigation is being conducted by us at several institutional investment firms around the country today who either now own or have had HLS stock. Several of them have been targeted; some of this is currently going on as we speak and others not yet. In some cases, these firms have sold their shares in order to bring an end to the harassment and intimidation. SHAC's Web site features a statement attributed to a CEO of one such company: “Please be advised that as of today, Cortina Asset Management does not own any shares of Huntingdon Life Sciences Research. We have sold all of our shares in LSRI today. This will confirm that we have no intention of dealing with HLS stock at any time in the future.”

            Existing statutes make it relatively easy for the FBI to pursue direct actions that include arsons and bombing. It is a different story with respect to the harassment via telephone, e-mail, office and home visits, vandalism to property, intimidation and the like. The existing Animal Enterprise Terrorism statute, set forth at 18 U.S.C. 43, does provide a framework for prosecuting the individuals involved in animal rights extremism. However, in practice, this statute does not cover many of the activities SHAC routinely engages in on its mission to shut down HLS.

            Investigating and preventing animal rights extremism is one of our highest domestic terrorism priorities, as you know. We are committed to working with our partners to disrupt and dismantle these movements, to protect our fellow citizens and to bring to justice those who commit crime and terrorism in the name of animal rights.




Humans and Animals Morally Equal

Senator Inhofe: Dr. Vlasak, do your fellow animal rights activists understand that animal testing is required by law and therefore, the people who are performing this testing are merely following the law? Do they understand that, and do you understand that?

            Dr. Vlasak: I understand that they are merely following the law, and the law in this case is wrong, just like the law that allowed slavery was wrong at one time.

            Senator Inhofe: Well, you mentioned slavery, you also mentioned slavery in several of the comments that you made, as well as your testimony. You analogized the plight of animals to that of the African-American slaves of early American history, asserting that the animal rights movement is similar to that of the Underground Railroad. You even at one time or several times have talked about the Jews in Nazi Germany. It sounds to me, in looking at this, like you're evaluating the lives of human beings in a similar way that you are animals. Do you think animals' lives are as precious as human life?

            Dr. Vlasak: Non-human lives, non-human animal lives, are as precious as human lives. At one time, racism and sexism and homophobism were prominent in our society. Today speciesism is prominent in our society. It is just as wrong as racism.

            Senator Inhofe: So you do put them in the same category, the animals of non-human and human lives? Is that correct?

            Dr. Vlasak: They are morally equal.

            Senator Inhofe: They are morally equal?

            Dr. Vlasak: They are.


Assassinating Animal Researchers

            Senator Inhofe: One of the statements you made at the animal rights convention when you were defending assassinating people, murdering people, you said—let me put it up here to make sure I'm not misquoting you—”I don't think you'd have to kill, assassinate too many. I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save 1 million, 2 million, or 10 million non-human lives.” You're advocating the murder of individuals, isn't that correct?

            Dr. Vlasak: I made that statement, and I stand by that statement. That statement is made in the context that the struggle for animal liberation is no different than struggles for liberation elsewhere, whether the struggle for liberation in South Africa against the apartheid regime, whether the liberation against the communists, whether it were the liberation struggles in Algeria, Vietnam or Iraq today, liberation struggles occasionally or usually, I should say, usually end up in violence. There is plenty of violence being used on the other side of the equation. These animals are being terrorized, murdered and killed by the millions every day. The animal rights movement has been notoriously non-violent up to this point. But I don't believe that--I believe as my statement says-- --

            Senator Inhofe: Let me interrupt. You said it has been notoriously non-violent up to this time?

            Dr. Vlasak: That is correct.

            Senator Inhofe: You don't think there is violence in the testimony you've heard?

            Dr. Vlasak: I think when you compare the 500 animals being murdered every single day at Huntingdon Life Sciences, which is just one company, I think when you look at the amount of violence that goes on at Mr. Boruchin's house, getting a little spray paint on the wall, I think if you look at the amount of violence that went on at this yacht club in New York, where again, some spray paint was slapped up on a wall, I don't think you can compare that kind of vandalism with the murder of millions of animals.

            Senator Inhofe: So you call for the murders of researchers and human life?

            Dr. Vlasak: I said in that statement and I meant in that statement that people who are hurting animals and who will not stop when told to stop, one option would be to stop them using any means necessary and that was the context in which that statement was made.

            Senator Inhofe: Including murdering them, is that correct?

            Dr. Vlasak: Pardon?

            Senator Inhofe: Including murdering them?

            Dr. Vlasak: I said that would be a morally justifiable solution to the problem.

            Senator Inhofe: Senator Lautenberg.

            Senator Lautenberg: Dr. Vlasak, you approve of these dastardly acts in the name of liberation, of a liberation movement. Do you have any children?

            Dr. Vlasak: I have no children. Just to be clear, I don't approve of any unnecessary suffering. I wish these things didn't have to happen.

            Senator Lautenberg: Fine. You do. What you have said confirms it. So I just want to go there. I want to know who you are, what makes you tick. Because it is so revolting to hear what you say about the murder. These aren't extermination camps. What's being done, whether you like it or not, is to try and improve the quality of life for human beings. This isn't Germany. How do you feel about people, you said you think people who have a cause have a right to violence. How about the guys who kill our soldiers and who killed the people in the Trade Towers? They have a cause. Is that ok with you?

            Dr. Vlasak: No. Unnecessary loss of life is never ok with me. I extend that loss of life to animal life, non-human animal life as well.

            Senator Lautenberg: You're the super moralist, you're deciding where it's right and where it's wrong. Many people who have causes, some of them justified, but to take tactics like the intimidation of people to spoil their lives or spoil their ability to make a living is an outrageous thing to propose. You're anti-social in your behavior, obviously. But to sit here so smugly and be proud of the fact that you stand by this statement about 5 or 10 lives, if those lives were your kids, well, maybe you don't have anybody you love. You don't have any kids. . . .


Experiments on Rats and Mice

Senator Lautenberg: Dr. Vlasak, how do you feel about animals like rats and mice? The use of experimentation on them to see how they react to different medications, things of that nature, would you permit that?

            Dr. Vlasak: I think it's a hugely wasteful use of scarce resource dollars that we have in the medical industry. We have much better ways of showing whether a drug is toxic to a human being or not, rather than choking it down a rat's or a mouse's throat. I think from a scientific standpoint----

            Senator Lautenberg: If they are injected----

            Dr. Vlasak: Pardon?

            Senator Lautenberg: If they are injected with a material, is that OK?

            Dr. Vlasak: As I was trying to explain to you, I think from a scientific standpoint, there is so little validity to doing that, that we're wasting hundreds of millions of scarce health care dollars. Even if it did work, though, and it doesn't, but even if it did, I'd still be against it. Because the same reason I'm against the experimentation that happened on human beings against their will, whether it was in Nazi concentration camps or whether it was here in the United States----

            Senator Lautenberg: We shouldn't experiment on human beings.

            Dr. Vlasak: There were people who were experimented on against their will. They have good, useful results and they published it in the same medical journals that I read today. But it was wrong. Whether it worked or not doesn't matter.

            Senator Lautenberg: Since I have the mic on this side, I would prefer that we follow my line. So you would say, there is something called the Lautenberg Cancer Research Center. I helped establish that, because my father died when he was 43 years old. He got sick at age 42, he worked in a mill in Patterson, NJ, as did his brother, my uncle. He died when he was 52, also cancer, their father died also of cancer when he was 56. When I had the good fortune of success in business, I put some resources into a group of New Jersey scientists who were moving abroad, to learn more about cancer research. After watching my father suffer for a year, 13 months, he was athletic; he was strong; he exercised; he was very careful about his diet. I had enlisted in the Army when my dad finally died, and I made the decision then that I would do whatever I can to try and prevent another family from undergoing the same torture and grief, the same individual. But you are so smug, if you'll forgive me, about what is right and what is wrong. If I asked you a question about mice, mice that are raised particularly, Mr. Chairman, for learning more about the anatomy of the animal and see if we can convert that. Right now, there is all kinds of talk about using, even using animal organs for life saving. You wouldn't permit that, would you?

            Dr. Vlasak: Well, I'm sorry to say that your organization is wasting money on mice and rat experimentation, when we know much better ways to find cures for human beings.

            Senator Lautenberg: I'll tell the scientists there about that.



Dr. Vlasak: Let me just address the transplantation issue that you brought up. As you know, xenotransplantation, or placing animal organs into human beings, that's not going to work. It hasn't worked, and it's not going to work any time in the near future. We have a hard enough time transplanting human organs into human beings and all the immunosuppressives that are required to do that.

            Senator Lautenberg: We can't find them all that we need.

            Dr. Vlasak: Well, we could, if we had a presumed consent law, for instance. If you guys would pass a law that says everybody's an organ donor unless proven otherwise, or unless they declare they don't want to be. This has been done in Belgium, they get all the organs they need by doing laws like that. There is not a shortage of organs absolutely, there is a shortage of organs that we can get at the last minute. I deal in trauma patients, I see people die every day. I save lives, but I lose lives sometimes as well.

            Senator Lautenberg: But you're willing to take lives. That's the anomaly here. You are willing to say that somebody you don't know, somebody's kid, somebody's parent, somebody's brother, somebody's sister, take that life, that's ok.

            Dr. Vlasak: These are not innocent lives.

            Senator Lautenberg: You'll teach those SOBs a lesson about killing those mice or killing those animals, or doing experimentation that's going to make this world [better]----why are we living longer? It is because we experimented in different ways. And for you to sit there and you decide what the proper course of action is in the sanctity of your practice and the rules of your club here, which is identified in your statement, “morally acceptable,” I don't want to waste my own energy any more.



Senator Lautenberg: Mr. Chairman, this is an outrage to have an individual sit here and impose a standard that is supposed to fit all of society. I don't know whether, at Mr. Bibi's company [i.e., Huntingdon Life Sciences], everything they do is exactly right. I know that what they're trying to do is to help us live better lives, all of us. And I hope that they continue. And when I see a kid down here, at Walter Reed Hospital, who's lost a leg or lost a part of his body, and they find ways, because they have experimented with things, maybe to regrow even bone, it's fantastic, and I want it to continue. You have no right to intimidate people who are engaged in a proper practice under our laws. You want the law changed? Write letters. Come down here and ask for a change in law about whether or not animal experimentation is right. Don't take the law into your own hands. That's a bad mistake.

            Dr. Vlasak: HLS isn't trying to save human lives. They're trying to turn a profit, nothing else.

            Senator Inhofe: Senator Lautenberg, thank you. I think you and I can go a long ways to correcting what we have seen here today with the law that we are introducing, and I look forward to working with you on the floor of the Senate to make sure that we get this thing passed and give the FBI and the Department of Justice the necessary tools to stop this type of perversion in our society. My son called me up right before this hearing, he noticed we were having this hearing. He's a doctor. He said, at some point, you need to explain to them that it's either going to be the lives of these animals or human life. When I call him back, Dr. Vlasak, and tell him that we have a witness who equates animals lives with human lives, then that takes away all the argument. If you believe that in your own heart, what you do, and you have advocated the assassination, the murder of human lives, of human beings, of researchers, then I don't see any reason to go any further with this. I can just assure you that we are going to give law enforcement the necessary tools to stop this type of thing from happening. I can assure you of that. That's not a maybe, that's a definite.


Source: U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Eco-Terrorism Specifically Examining Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (2005).


Questions for Review

1. Give some examples of how research animals are treated according to Jerry Vlasak.

2. According to John E. Lewis, what are the two targets of SHAC?

3. In the Question and Answer session, Vlasak states that “animal rights movement has been notoriously non-violent up to this point.” How, according to him, has it been nonviolent?

4. In the Question and Answer session, what does Vlasak say about experiments on rats and mice?

5. In the Question and Answer session, what are the problems that Vlasak notes about Xenotransplantation?

6. According to Senator Lautenberg in the conclusion of the Question and Answer session, how should animal rights advocates pursue changes?


Questions for Analysis

1. Look at the quotation from the Animal Enterprise Terrorism act in the editor’s introduction at the outset of this selection. PETA criticized the Act on the grounds that it “would allow the government to charge animal rights activists with massive fines and jail time for using nonviolent tactics such as civil disobedience, whistle-blowing, and undercover investigations” (www.peta.org). But a portion of the Act states that the economic damage done by animal activists “does not include any lawful economic disruption (including a lawful boycott) that results from lawful public, governmental, or business reaction to the disclosure of information about an animal enterprise.” Does this adequately address the problem noted by PETA? Explain.

2. Consider what Vlasak says about the number of animals that died in the research of the sugar substitute Splenda. How might a defender of animal research respond?

3. Vlasak was ridiculed by Senators Inhofe and Lautenberg for suggesting that assassinating animal researchers would be a morally acceptable tactic if it saved the lives of millions of animals. Suppose that researchers were conducting similar experiments on human fetuses or abandoned human children resulting in their deaths. Would either of these justify killing the researchers? Explain whether your answer has a bearing on Vlasak’s position.

4. Senator Lautenberg asked Vlasak whether he had any children; his point was that, when advocating the killing of animal researchers, Vlasak’s view of the value of human life was skewed by not having the experience of parental love. Vlasak did not directly respond to that point. Write a dialogue between Lautenberg and Vlasak on that issue.

5. Senator Lautenberg states the following to Vlasak: “You're the super moralist, you're deciding where it's right and where it's wrong.” Within the context of Lautenberg’s statement, what might be the difference between a normal moralist and a “super moralist”, and what specifically is wrong with being a super moralist?

6. Look at Senator Lautenberg recommendation in the conclusion of the Question and Answer session for how should animal rights advocates pursue changes. How might an animal rights activist respond to this?


Source: U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Eco-Terrorism Specifically Examining Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (2005).