Criminal Animals

Dave Killion — April 25, 2012

My work entails leaving the office at about 10:00 to drive around to various locations. That’s the time our local CBC network hosts “Q with Jian Ghomeshi“. On Monday, Jian opened the show by talking about foxes that have been causing destruction at the London 2012 Olympic shooting venue. Here is the BBC on the topic.

Everything was fine until right up near the end, when Jian goes and says something about the area actually belonging to the foxes because they were there first. That they have a right to be there.

Here in Victoria, one hears that sort of thinking a lot, because there is an invasive deer problem that inevitably spurs debate about a cull, and bear and cougar are regularly sighted in the suburbs and even downtown. Any discussion of the topic is sure to result in a letter to the editor from someone proclaiming the animals’ rights. I think this is a little confused.

Human beings unquestionably have rights. When one of us violates the rights of someone else, then the violator is subject to the loss of some of his own rights. If animals also have rights, then why would it be expected that we must respect their rights while permitting them to violate ours? We wouldn’t do that with another human being. If someone came onto your property and destroyed your landscaping, you would say he’s a criminal. But would you charge a deer with trespass, theft, and vandalism? Of course not. In fact, someone who is sufficiently dismissive of the rights of others is viewed by society as no different than an animal. So I think we can dismiss the notion that animals should be treated as if they have rights. For the most part, we don’t even treat each other that way.

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