In a new essay Mr. Rick Bogle says I don’t like him.
He is right.
He never met me. He doesn’t know me. He has never been to my Lab. He doesn’t understand my work. He doesn’t know what I stand for. He doesn’t know about my social activism, political views or my life in general.
He merely knows that I am involved with the use of animals in medical research. This alone is sufficient for him to publicly condemn me as a despicable monster in the ugliest possible terms. He wishes death upon scientists. His hateful fantasies ended up compiled into a book that, he appears to hope, will inspire others with more courage than his own.
I don’t like Rick Bogle.
In his moral righteousness he justifies violence against members of our community. He demands public debate, but simultaneously decrees that the public cannot possible decide on moral issues regarding animal research (“they don’t really know the issues”). Violence is his one and only idea on how to resolve moral disputes. Unless, of course, you peacefully comply with his views.
I don’t like Rick Bogle.
But I will nevertheless answer his recent critique of my position which he misinterpreted, as his challenge to pick a threshold on the IQ distribution of human individuals to assign them moral status is irrelevant to my position.
I believe, like Carl Cohen, that humans have rights by virtue of their ability to participate as full moral agents in a community of equals. A full moral agent is one that can purposely act against its own interests in respect of the rights of others. All such moral agents have the same moral status (yes, I agree — it is self-evident that all men are created equal.)
Non-human animals cannot have rights, properly understood, because they are unable to participate in such a moral community of equals. This does not mean that we can do with animals as we please. Animals, in my view, have (graded) moral status and must be the object of our (human) moral concern. This is the theoretical basis for animal welfarism and environmental ethics.
I believe it is up to all of us, as a society, to decide on what we consider morally permissible in our interactions with other species. I think this is the only productive conversation we can have. In fact, it is the only meaningful question we can ask. How we (humans) should treat them (non-human animals).
Mr. Bogle discards my proposal as a “rhetorical device and delusion” on my part, making it clear he is not interested in any such a dialogue. It is easy to understand why. As a true animal rights believer, he denies the notion of graded moral status. To him, if animals are to have any moral status at all, they must have the exact same status as that of a human being. It is all or nothing.
We also differ in that animal rights activists are moral individualists. They believe our moral concern for a living being must be based exclusively on each being’s intrinsic characteristics. It is only under such a premise that they ask why experimenting on a monkey is justified but not on a mentally disabled human child of comparable cognitive abilities. To them, relational properties, such as the existence of a suffering family and community that cares, protects and loves that child is completely irrelevant.
Thus, our philosophical differences are deep and irreconcilable. It becomes increasingly clear that any sort of meaningful dialogue with such animal rights extremists is impossible.
Mr. Bogle closes his post with a rather hilarious comment.
“I don’t know whether Ringach eats animals. If he does, then all his justifications for using animals in science are just hollow nonsense.”
If this argument held any validity I could have written a much shorter article indeed. One that simply states that all animal activists complaints about the work are bogus because they vaccinate their children and pets, and seek medical attention if the need it, benefiting from the work of scientists with animals in research.
Here, a funny anecdote comes to mind. When I asked an animal rights philosopher if he vaccinated his children he responded: “Yes I do. But this could only mean that I am a hypocrite, not that any of my arguments against animal research are invalid.” And he was right.
So it is true that I don’t like Rick Bogle.
It is also true that I pity him.
I imagine it must be a constant, depressing struggle to walk out of your house every day into what you consider is a morally repugnant society with the goal of exterminating its monsters. It is a difficult quest indeed, as these monsters are to be found at every corner and anywhere you look. From that family eating hot dogs, to the violinist in the park whose bow is made of animal products, to that couple enjoying an ice-cream, and of course those scientists working to advance medicine. Above all, I pity him because, one day, he will realize that the monsters he truly seeks are the ones living within.