Edwin A. Locke
Edwin A. Locke is Dean's Professor (Emeritus) of Leadership and Motivation at the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, a frequent lecturer for the Ayn Rand Institute on the philosophy of Objectivism, and one of the most outspoken critics of the animal rights movement.
Conducted by Alexander D. Farris
Imagineer: What sparked your interest in the field of animal rights activism?
Locke: I think I first got interested in the early 1990s based on an article in Washingtonian Magazine, and I was so appalled by that article that I gave a talk at an Objectivist (philosophy of Ayn Rand) conference critiquing the ideas of that article. Since then, I have written op-eds and engaged in various debates.
Imagineer: Has there been anything in particular that has sparked you? For instance, what was the article you read about?
Locke: It was the basic philosophy of the animal rights movement: we have to completely keep out of the lives of animals; killing animals is like the Holocaust; medical research with animals is both unnecessary and to be forbidden. I thought these were assaults on man’s life and happiness and found it so flagrantly irrational that I had to speak up.
Locke: No, I would not agree. In the first place, it’s a preposterous idea, because animals don’t have the conceptual faculty and couldn’t possibly understand us; although, we can understand them.
Imagineer: What gives a human the right to take the life of an animal?
Locke: The principle that we have a right to our own life gives us that right. Since animals don’t have individual rights, moral concepts aren’t applicable to them. Rights are based on the capacity to reason and the moral concept of egoism, our right to pursue our own happiness. We have the right to use animals for our own benefit, whether it be as seeing eye dogs, pets, livestock, or subjects for animal research. We have the right to use them to promote our life and well-being, medical research being the most obvious example. Many critical breakthroughs have been made using animals despite the denials of animal rights people. The only line I would draw is that anyone who causes pain only for the sake of causing pain is sick and sadistic. We know that animals feel pain—which doesn’t give them rights—but anyone who would do that just for the sake of causing pain I would feel nothing but contempt for.
Imagineer: Take this for an example: If you were the chicken in the slaughterhouse or you were the monkey tied up and incapacitated for the purpose of scientific testing, would you not question the authority of those who were antagonizing you?
Locke: If I were a monkey or a chicken, I would not have the capacity to understand what was going on, because I wouldn’t possess the rational faculty. So, that’s an impossible question to answer.
Imagineer: What makes an animal’s capacity for reason and logic, which you claim to therefore give the being rights, different from a baby or a mentally handicapped human?
Locke: A baby is the growing form of a human, so it’s not in the category of lower animal. You can’t grant individual rights and then deny the right of children to have rights and the right to grow up; they are in the category of human. It would be a contradiction to say that human beings have rights, but we can kill all babies. Similarly, a retarded human is a damaged human, not a lower animal.
Imagineer: If babies don’t possess the capacity to comprehend such action against them, do they really have rights?
Locke: They still have rights because they’re human. I think a person acquires rights as soon as they leave their mother’s womb, as soon as they become an independent entity. They’re in the category of an individual human being, possessing individual human rights. The difference with children is that they can’t exercise their rights until they’re older. So, the parents have to protect them and respect their rights, which is why child neglect and child abuse are properly crimes.
Locke: A right is a moral principle sanctioning man’s freedom of action in a social context. Since man’s mind is his means of survival, only the use of force negates the mind. Men must be free to exercise their rational faculty in order to live. The only thing that can physically prevent that is the use of force or the threat of force. That’s why man has rights: because of his nature as a rational being and his means of survival which is reason. None of this applies to the lower animals, because, as you know, evolution has separated us, especially with respect to the mind.
Imagineer: Would you deem it condemnable for one to, as merely a matter of compassion, adopt a vegan diet or attempt to help animals by striding for new scientific breakthroughs such as in vitro meat? Is it wrong for PETA to champion these things?
Locke: I see nothing wrong and have no argument with someone who voluntarily wants to invent a method of growing meat in a petri dish if it’s financially possible, and I have no objection to someone who wants to have a vegan diet as a personal choice. What I would object to is people trying to prevent me from making my own choices which are different from theirs, because I have rights. I have a right to pursue my life as long as I don’t violate theirs. So, to me that is a personal choice and not properly an issue of law.
If you look at quotes from PETA, you can see that they have a virulent hatred of man. “If animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it.” “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” “Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six million broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.” So now Jews are reduced to the level of chickens? This is totally demeaning to Jews. “Human beings have grown like a cancer. We’re the biggest blight on the face of the Earth.” The only message you can take away from these quotes is that they’re man-haters.
Imagineer: Could you also take away that they are just vigorous, compassionate supports and lovers of animals and all living beings?
Locke: No! I disagree. Man is not included among the beings they love. Now, if you wanted to have a legitimate organization in this field, it would be something like the traditional American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which would attempt to voluntarily persuade people not to be cruel, expose situations in which gratuitous cruelty was involved, and socially ostracize those who gratuitously cause pain. Michael Vick is a good example. I have contempt for what Michael Vick did. I think what they were doing is totally vicious and had no legitimate human purpose except cruelty. So, I am not for laws, but I would totally condemn what he did. I agree with him being suspended from football but not with his jail time. I don’t think PETA want all beings equal at all; I think they want man to suffer and die.
Locke: Well, I’m not a therapist of the PETA people, so it wouldn’t be fair to make psychological diagnoses. The only thing I can do is to evaluate what they say. Given their statements, they are vicious enemies of man. I condemn them morally for it. Of all the things they are against, the worst and most inexcusable is their opposition to medical research, which has been a very important aspect of developing new medical procedures and drugs, even though not the only aspect. To say we’re against a cure for AIDS is so vicious that I think it needs no further commentary. Knowing the terrible human suffering that people with AIDS are going through, not to mention dying, anyone who finds a cure is a hero by my standards. If they have to use monkeys or chimps or rats to do it, I’m for it.
Imagineer: Would it not be more fiscally efficient for PETA to take their money currently used for research and spend it on bombs or guns so they could inflict their supposed hate directly?
Locke: Well, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) does use violence, and there are splinter groups of the ALF that do the same. PETA used to support them in various legal proceedings. The only difference between the two is that PETA says it’ll try to go through the courts, whereas the ALF says it’ll bypass the courts and go to violence. Both are man-haters; they’re just using different tactics. PETA’s quotes are not ambiguous. You couldn’t ask for more of an anti-man set of statements than those. These are not subtle quotes; they’re very flagrant. “The life of an ant and that of a child should be treated with equal status.” Ants are something you stomp on if they enter your house. That’s equal to a child? What kind of a mentality would say something like that?
Imagineer: Would it be preferable to not stomp on that ant?
Locke: When ants come in my house, we poison them, or we hire a company to put poison outside the house so they’ll die trying to get in. I’m going to do that indefinitely, because I don’t want ants in my house. If they can kill ants before they get into my house, I’m happy to have them do that. I don’t have a single compunction about it; I don’t grant ants rights. Somebody who does is contemptible. I will not allow ants in my house. If someone considers them equal to a baby, then I say they are divorced from reality.
While perhaps some portion of PETA supporters do not actively wish death upon the human race, many prominent PETA supporters, staff members and fellow-travelers do. The quotes are out there.
Many casual animal-rights supporters have knee-jerk emotional reactions to cruelty to animals, but that's where it stops: on the emotional level. They don't attempt to rationally think through what animal *rights* actually means and what it would imply. They simply throw their support behind groups like PETA without thinking twice about it. Yet, many at PETA (and other groups) have openly expressed disdain for human beings and actively wish destruction upon the human race.
I think animals ought to have the right to live and not be killed for no good reason, as they often are now. Think twice before you eat a chicken for dinner. The next day, you won't care that you ate the chicken, but a living being will be dead. It doesn't make sense, and I think that's the message PETA attempts to promote, even it comes off as otherwise occasionally.
If animals have the right to live then so do fruits and veggies. What the hell would man eat? And you can't see that this is hatred for man? Good God!!!
I think the whole animal rights movement is basically saying, "Hey. We don't need to do this. We don't need to murder this chicken for our own pleasure. Why not look for alternatives?"
Explain exactly what is anti-man about that.
But that's not what PETA says. What part of that don't you understand? Read what they have to say on the matter, and it will quickly become clear that they are uninterested in humans. The founders and leaders of PETA have repeatedly expressed that they would value a single animal life above all of humanity. That is what is anti-man.
I won't even get into your silly points on emotions and rational faculty in animals.
Of course PETA is uninterested in humans. They are a group for animal rights. Animal rights as a concept does not have to contradict human rights. I would encourage you to read Gary L. Francione's article in this issue. It's good. Visit his website and listen to what he has to say.
I don't understand how my argument was "silly" at all. Humans obviously don't want to die. Think about if some bigger, more dominate animal lived on Earth. Would you just say, "It's OK if you kill me to use me to appease your taste buds or suit your fashion style?"
Anyone who supports an organization without understanding its basic premises is sanctioning evil, and are just as responsible for the outcome as those who do so explicitly.
1) They and their actions do not represent the entire animal rights movement.
2) Their basic premises are not anti-man; they are pro-non-human. You have to distinguish the separation between those.
I ate a chicken last night. Ummm. Good!
And I had buffalo chili from a buffalo I shot in Montana. Yummy
Thank you Dr. Locke.
If PETA holds that animals have rights, then they must logically hold that all animals have rights against each other. How do they defend the so-called rights of antelope against the so-called rights of lions, or the rights of all living things against the lowest form of virus? Their choice of which species to champion would be entirely arbitrary, if it weren't for their over-riding hatred of man.
I recommend Ayn Rand's books Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and the Virtue of Selfishness, to anyone seriously interested in getting on the right track.
For good reads, get Zinn's A People's History of the United States or Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent. Ayn Rand is worthless. She is the one who has a hatred for man. She doesn't believe in our solidarity as living beings, even our solidarity as humans.
Let me take an example to prove my point. We want to cure type 2 diabetes. We can either inform people about the implications of their eating habits or use our resources to research in a laboratory for some kind of cure. If I make a group that is trying to research in a lab, that doesn't mean I'm against information campaigns, that just means that I am doing one particular thing to advance the efforts to end the disease.
Take that and apply it to PETA. I guarantee Ingrid Newkirk would support groups like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, but she is choosing to advance the general cause for rights in a different way.
Now, I know that these things "overlap" a bit in things like animal testing. This is why PETA puts a great deal of emphasis into 21st century testing uniques that do not require animals. Animals in laboratories are tortured, and PETA is just trying to amend that.
If we live in a world where we don't have to abuse animals, but we instead choose to do so merely for our own personal comforts and tastes, couldn't we change that? Couldn't we not slaughter things just because we want to? Is that so difficult of a concept?
The connection is the issue of life and death. That is, our species not only has the capacity to reason, but that the exercise of reason is a requirement for our survival. The principle of rights is, in essence, the recognition that every living member of our species must be free to act on his own judgment, or he will die. Hence, the word “inalienable“. It can be pointed out that this requirement begins at the instant of separation, when the essentials for survival are no longer supplied by nature via the mother’s body.
As pointed out, animals on the other hand, survive quite well on the perceptual level, without devising a code of ethics, thus the principle of rights does not apply to them. I would add, that even if an ape were able to express his thoughts using sign language, and even if it were one day proved that the ape was using some amount of reasoning power to do it, the ape could not truthfully claim that his survival depended upon it.
There are some further ramifications of mistakenly concluding that the only qualification for rights is the capacity of the individual to exercise reason. For example, we find ourselves trying to define the minimum capacity that constitutes a “normal” adult human, and the stage of development at which a teenager reaches it. After that, it must be observed that babies and the handicapped do not meet this standard at all, and thus it is a mystery as to why the principle of rights should apply to them. Similarly, the anti-abortionists point out that if we claim that rights apply to a newborn baby despite its lack of qualifications, why should they not apply to a fetus just a few weeks before birth? Or to any fetus in the womb? Where is the dividing line?
I think it is worth noting that in all of Rand’s works, she never (to the best of my knowledge) went down that road. I am convinced she recognized that neither the capacity of the individual to exercise reason nor the degree to which he succeeds at using it are relevant to the principle of rights. Instead, she recognized that our species has lost all the automatic methods of survival common to the lower animals, and has only reason to rely upon.
Like Dr. Locke, it is my hope that the animal rights advocates (or at least the more sensible of them) will one day recognize that this argument is ironclad and unassailable, and give up their crusade.
The point is that we don't need to abuse non-humans. We have the technology to not pack chickens into unlit prisons where they are held until sent to a cruel slaughter. Why do we do this? Purely because of our taste. Chicken tastes good, we say. If we have such a great ability to reason and are so cognitively superior, then you'd think we could find a better way to give ourselves nutrition.
Straying from the animal rights topic, man's "ability to reason" isn't necessarily always beneficial to his basic survival. In 2002 we found out that nuclear war between the US and USSR was diverted because of one nuclear submarine commander who called off a warhead from being launched in the last seconds. Look at the entire concept of war, which is a product of man's "reason." Look at the impact man puts on the environment. In these examples, non-humans have not done things nearly so against "survival." Does this mean that they have a greater capacity to reason? Well, I guess it depends on which definition of the word you want to use. And ambiguity cannot excuse the masses cruelty inflicted upon non-humans every day.
Now, I will agree with you that subjecting animals to torture or horrible medical experiments is regrettable and I hope that one day it becomes unnecessary, but we must observe that for most animals, life in the wild ends with being caught by a bigger animal, torn limb from limb or disemboweled while still alive. Life and death in a raw state of nature is downright brutal. Being raised in a feed pen and quickly slaughtered seems pretty cushy by comparison.
I’ll also agree that nuclear war and all the other forms of aggression are awfully dumb, but I will argue that they are not a result of using reason. Instead they are a result of attempting to evade it.
Most people in the world have no clue where that line should be because their leaders have told them that the god of their religion has commanded them to kill all the infidels, and they follow along blindly. That’s not reason, that’s evading reason.
I will go further and state that Rand’s philosophy is the only pro-man philosophy the world has ever seen. I’ve studied them all enough to make that claim.
Plus, America is the only country in the world that was created with the idea of rights in mind, and in my view, the only one that has a chance of grasping it fully. I’ve written a book and many articles on the origin and meaning of rights. They are on my web site for anyone interested.
We need to understand different perspectives when thinking philosophically. That is part of our humanity and, if you will, our responsibility as living beings. No chicken wants to be caged and sent to slaughter, no matter how much Ed Locke makes you think so.
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