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Jewish World Review Aug. 25, 1999 /13 Elul, 5759

Sam Schulman

Sam Schulman
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The bleeding heartlessness of "animal rights" --
AFTER A SIEGE lasting almost two years by sweet-natured animal-lovers, the owner of a farm devoted to raising cats for scientific research near Oxford, England last week finally surrendered. The farmer told the Sunday Telegraph: ""My car has been firebombed, my house burnt and the windows of my house broken on many occasions. I have been beaten up, my wife has been attacked and my staff have been attacked."

According to The Telegraph, the local police have spent 2.8 million pounds protecting Mr. Brown's fully legal premises, and 400 of them spent a weekend last spring in near-pitched battle with over 1,000 violent protesters. Yes, the English love animals. But don't laugh. I think that we in the US will suffer increasing levels of violence from "animal rights" and environmental protesters in the next few years, beginning with the "millennium" year coming up.

There is something inherent in an extreme concern for "animal rights" and environmental purity which lacks the self-limitation on violence of almost any other violent human activity. After all, abortion-clinic bombers do what they do, ultimately, to preserve life. Religious fanatics need souls to save. Master-racists need lesser races to dominate; slaves are invaluable to slave-drivers. But animal rights activists and environmentalists are operating on another level-they think in a way which excludes humanity altogether.

The feeling of power that transcends humanity is what animates these beliefs. If you speak for animals - the poor kitties of Hillgrove Farm, for example - you are driven by a feeling of righteousness that transcends your own species. And what's more, you are driven by pure fiction: the idea that animals, who have themselves no consciousness of rights or justice, who don't care about you, who don't care about each other or other species, who eat their young, in fact have only you to defend them. You fancy that they rely entirely upon you. Where do you stop? You don't have to. Your power, your authority, is unlimited by fellow-feeling. By identifying with the less-than-human you become superman.

Environmentalists of the extreme variety similarly feel no humane limits. Quite the contrary. Driven by the notion that humanity is noxious to "the planet," they feel that we as humans stand outside nature, and that the world would be a better place if we weren't here This belief begs the question of who would be around to know if the world were a better place-but never mind.

There is no question in almost any environmentalist's mind that things would be better if there were fewer of us-the only difference between them is how many fewer. The very purest environmentalists-sometimes, I've found, admired by the more moderate variety-feel that the answer to how many people there should be is --- none. Except, of course, for them-the supermen.

Nature-bloodless, pitiless nature-- is vastly more important to them than humanity. That being the case, there is no stopping them. Every human death is potentially good-the fewer humans today, the better. Preventing birth is good. But the non-existence of a handful of theoretical little McKibbens won't change much. But don't count on all environmentalists being wimps. There are many Bill McKibbens-but there are Ted Kaczinski's as well. It will occur to someone that thinning the herd of us might be a good idea. There's nothing special about humanity. So why not start with you-your wife, your children? Some will.

Another factor may drive environmentalist blood-lust, particularly after the millennium. And that is a feeling of great disappointment, of utter let-down. Only this time the disappointment will come because, perversely, things are not as bad as they expected. A thousand years ago, the European peasantry rose up in frustration that the end of the world had not occurred in the year 1000, that the second coming didn't come, a new heaven and a new earth wasn't in the offing. In the next few years they expressed their frustrations, often by slaughtering monks, priests, and Jews.

But think of the frustration to come to environmentalists. It's becoming clear (this has also been pointed out by Gregg Easterbrook in The New Republic) that there is no great outbreak of environmentally-caused cancer. The hopes they had that electro-magnetic fields and PCBs had been causing tumors are being dashed by new research every day. The whole eco-health scare has been revealed as just another trial lawyer scam. More, there's a growing recognition that whatever "global warming" may indeed be taking place can have nothing to do with human activity or the "greenhouse effect." But what is good news for most of us is bad news for the faithful. And we must not underestimate the sheer rage of those who had placed their entire faith in such myths.

Love of nature, love of animals, has been a good thing, and a relatively recent development in the history of mankind. But it's important to see that we love animals and the inanimate not with the hope of love being returned to us by someone with the same power to love us back. Instead, animal love is an expression of a purely and wonderfully human tendency to love, and love's tendency to overflow the human recipients of love-who, far too often, disappoint us by dying or betraying us or growing up or tiring us. So for a little while beware of those who love exclusively that which cannot fully reciprocate-cats, dogs, pigs, mountains, sunsets, the working class, your race, your sex, The Nation.

Sam Schulman Archives

JWR contributor Sam Schulman is deputy editor of Taki's Top Drawer, appearing in New York Press, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at Boston University. You may contact him by clicking here.


©1999, Sam Schulman