To care or not to care: After all this—do animal rights really matter?

Do animal rights really matter in the greater scheme of things—especially when that scheme includes global economic troubles? Is our treatment of animals a sign of our values?
    On Monday, we began with a discussion of California’s historic law to improve the treatment of animals commonly raised for food, ending “the confinement on a farm of pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens.”
    Tuesday we met the Obamas’ new puppy, Bo, a dog rejected by his previous owner. This lighthearted story illustrated a serious point about the plight of many companion animals.
    Yesterday, I announced the start of the grand prix of turtle racing: The Great Turtle Race of 11 leatherback sea turtles. A regular reader of told me she found it all rather “irritating.” Turning a natural migration into a race imposes human values on animals, and the idea of a great race is “manipulative.”
    Do you agree? Or, is this a good way to capture attention and raise awareness?
    In case you’re interested, you can watch the progress of 11 turtles on an interactive online map. The current leader at the end of Day 1 is Nueva Esperanza, an 825-pound female leatherback. Her name means New Hope in Spanish, so named to symbolize hope for the leatherbacks and even the future of our global economy, according to the audio that comes with the map.
    When it comes to animal rights, most of us may be hypocrites. “The only people with pure pro-animal virtue are those who are vegans,” says Allan Schnaiberg, “involved with only non-animal sources of clothing, fuel, and life’s amenities. That is a very small group—e.g., anyone who eats Jello is eating animal hooves along with other materials.”
    (Actually, it’s not quite that simple. The binding substance in Jello is made from animal hides and bones, not necessarily hooves. There also are Kosher versions made from seaweed or fishbones. But Allan is right—this gets complicated in a hurry.)
    Allan put it this way: “There are occasions in which the Golden Rule is the best guide, but that is harder to do with animals than with fellow citizens. And we do a crummy enough job with our co-residents in the human species … perhaps that should be our reference point, not some absolute virtue about animals.”

    And now, after all of this week’s reflection: What do you think about the issue of animal rights at the close of our week’s discussion?

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