THE FREEDOM TO CONNECT: The Path To Change by
John Williamson and John Burkitt
THE ANIMAL RIGHTS INDUSTRY
In an earlier essay, The Freedom To Connect: Divine Rights vs. Conventional Wisdom, the authors made a lengthy exploration of the nature and science of happiness and how it underpins individual and societal wellbeing. That essay established the link between happiness and connectedness, and how the “Animal Rights Industry” threatens happiness by legislating away our connectedness with other species.
Pressure to end private ownership of exotic animals comes from both animal rights organizations and the politicians that stand to benefit from their support. A pattern has emerged: Animal Rights groups relentlessly play on public misunderstanding and fear, then alternately court and pressure politicians to respond legislatively to appear as dedicated public “protectors.” It’s an old tactic to expel marginal groups without the funds to fight negative perceptions and restrictive measures.
A NEW PATH
Despite the early momentum of the Animal Rights Industry, there is a way to slow and eventually stop the personal and social losses and animal suffering it spreads. We must integrate recent scientific discoveries into the fabric of our existing legal structure to root out the myths Animal Rightists depend on. We call this strategy “The Path To Change” to emphasize that it’s not a quick fix against self serving politics and raw power plays now arrayed against the private exotic animal ownership.
Who could better state the Animal Rights Industry’s legal position than Gary L. Francione, one of its top legal and ethical experts. Here is his case for Animal Rights legislation:
1. Everyone thinks animals should be treated "humanely" and humans shouldn't cause them "unnecessary" pain. So why do animals enjoy so little legal protection?
2. Building on Tom Regan's The Case for Animal Rights, Francione argues that the major obstacle to effective protection is the treatment of animals as property, denying them rights.
There is a reason why animals are regarded as property under federal and state law—property without rights. Animals are unable to participate fully in the responsibilities that accompany rights. Rights are not free, and animals are unable to comprehend the theory or shoulder the cost of our constitutionally protected freedoms. So why are lawmakers now turning a blind eye to this logic when they write Animal Rights “laws” even as Animal Rights organizations flout the legal system? How can the Animal Rights Industry behave lawlessly, violating its non-profit status, financially supporting eco-terrorists and violent animal liberationists, yet still exercise such profound influence on lawmakers?
Francione complains that in every choice between human desire and animal pain, humans—who grant only themselves legal rights—almost always win. It is always easy to make a case that animal suffering is "necessary", regardless of the triviality of the human’s gain or the depth of the animal’s loss. Francione argues his case well -- including a crucial point: he maintains that there isn't anything in current "property" based animal law that has the effect of conferring rights on animals anyway. This point is more controversial than some readers may be aware; other writers on this subject (e.g. Gary Varner) have argued that other species do have de facto "rights" under U.S. law and have had them at least since the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
One crucial issue here is “standing.” Animals, being "property", devoid of rights, do not have "standing" to bring lawsuits, and generally humans don't have "standing" to bring suits on animals' behalf. Christopher Stone suggested in a 1972 paper, Do Trees Have Standing?, that even natural objects such as trees should have standing, so human organizations could represented their interests in court. So far there hasn't been a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to agree with them. Stone himself has since backed off from his suggestion.
Francione (following Regan) bases the possession of rights on intrinsic worth. But neither one of them argues that nonhumans have the same intrinsic worth as humans, and neither has established intrinsic worth as sufficient grounds for rights. There might be creatures whose existence is intrinsically worthwhile but whose survival requirements conflicted so far with our own that they could not be said to have any "rights" with respect to human beings. And in that case, it's not clear why, or even whether, the intrinsic worth of other species imposes a moral obligation on us.
We believe we can actually help the expressed cause of the AR’s here by establishing that animals, in their connected relationships with humans, most definitely have substantial value, something they have been loath to actually show in any rational way, except in commercial enterprise because they are truly trapped in the conundrums of their irrational ideology. Next, let’s refer to the legal definition of damages and establish an anchor point.
Damages, in legalese, can refer either to the harm suffered by a plaintiff in a civil action, or to monetary compensation awarded for said harm. There are three major types of damages:
Special damages are those for which a specific dollar amount can be determined, such as medical costs or property replacement.
General damages are those for which only a subjective value may be attached, such as physical or emotional pain, loss of companionship, disfigurement, loss of reputation, loss or impairment of mental or physical capacity, or loss of enjoyment of life. (This last example is of particular importance to where we want to go).
Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for inflicting loss, and to deter similar losses from being inflicted in the future. Punitive damages are awarded only in special cases, and great judicial restraint is expected to be exercised in their application.
Ill-conceived, hastily enacted ban laws rip asunder the life enhancing bonds of connectedness between human and animal. This clearly inflicts major pain, suffering, and loss upon an individual, and does so in the name of protecting the public from supposed danger and protecting animals from the “pain and suffering” of living in a human habitat rather than facing the challenges of a wild habitat which is unforgiving and quickly falling before human encroachment.
In fact, our laws clearly recognize the value of the human-animal bond, and puts a substantial value on the happiness that arises from such relationships. Animals are even permitted in places where they are usually excluded when the thereputic nature of the bond is certified by a physician. To further the matter, science strongly supports such values as well.
Driven by the relentless, often mysterious AR agenda to remove most all animals from private ownership, a monstrous wave of ban laws have been -- and continue to be -- enacted across the country. With false claims and distortions of their danger to the public and maltreatment of such animals, it has become a free-for-all in which unwitting politicians vie for political capital. The results are animals being put to death, or moved to suffer somewhere else, and owners who are forcibly separated from their vital connectedness and source of happiness. Sadly, humans and animals both lose a great deal of their well being on this endless treadmill of abuse driven by the AR industry.
Separating humans and their legally owned, mutually connected animals by unjustified banning is a breach of constitutional law. It is quite unlikely that the AR agenda and the politicians who serve it could survive close scrutiny in a court of law.
Much of the strategy used to convert animals into symbols of fear and loathing hinges on the assumption that all “wild” animals are inherently dangerous. This presupposes the very outdated notion that their genes evolved over millennia and aren’t expected to change for another vast period of time just to adapt to sanctuary in a human world. A magnifying glass wielded by modern science now illuminates and dispels the myths of these self serving notions. Animals can indeed adapt to human proximity very quickly and pass this adaptation on to their progeny if the captive dynamics are recognized. They simply do not have to be burdened with the “intrinsic” dangerousness almost desperately proclaimed by the AR industry.
The process of adaptation and subsequent incorporation of those changes into their genetic line is a collection of processes that modify the expressions of the genome without modifying the genes themselves. It’s called epigenetic evolution. The many recent discoveries in this field are even now reshaping society’s basic views of evolution to expand the classical models of both Lamarck and Darwin – who are both right and wrong. Epigenetic evolution portends a major impact on many of our cherished institutions, including law, infant rearing, education, animal husbandry, social behavior, religion, politics and the like.
Some important and well understood epigenetic mechanisms include:
- DNA methylation – pathogenic loss of gene function by methylation of adjacent control sequences;
- changes in chromatin configuration – chromosomal rearrangements can up-regulate or silence expression of an intact gene;
- imprinting – gene expression is controlled by methylation patterns that differ according to the parental origin of the gene; and
- changes in protein conformation – such changes propagate through a population of protein molecules, converting them from a stable conformation into a new form with different properties.
Then there is brain neurochemistry, far more complex than simple protein modulation. Noted neuropsychologist James Prescott, Ph.D. tells us that the whole answer will not be found solely in brain neurochemistry, which is only a mediating mechanism for behavior where the "cause" is not to be found in any singular neurochemical but in the complex mosaic, pattern or gestalt of brain neurochemistry that is determined more by the environment than by the genome. Gene expression is thus controlled and regulated by the environment! The environment in this sense includes the physical realm, the nurturing emotional and psychological space, and significantly, the fetal space.
The myth that organisms are hardwired by their genes has been thoroughly exploded by scientific findings accumulating since the mid 1970s and especially so since genome sequences have been accumulating. Maternal effects on the development of offspring are well known. But they were thought to be due to nutritional and physiological factors affecting the fetus in the womb; and within the past few years, geneticists have discovered that diet and stress can profoundly change the pattern of gene expression in the offspring.
Caring mothers reduce stress response. For example, in the nest, the mother rat licks and grooms her pups, and while nursing, arches her back to groom and lick them. Some mothers (high caring) tend to do this more frequently than others (low caring). As adults, the offspring of high caring mothers are less fearful and show more modest responses to stress in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) neuro-endocrine pathway.
Maternal behavior, therefore, alters the development of the HPA responses to stress. The magnitude of the HPA response is a function of the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) secreted by the hypothalamus, which activates the pituitary-adrenal system. This is modulated by glucocorticoid, which feeds back to inhibit CRF synthesis and secretion, thus dampening the HPA responses to stress.
They found highly significant differences in methylation, with low methylation in offspring from high caring mothers and high methylation in offspring from low caring mothers, corresponding to high and low expression respectively of the GR. Moreover, these epigenetic differences due to maternal behavior during the first week of life persisted into adulthood.
Amazingly, the pups of both high and low-caring mothers start out life genetically the same. Just before birth, the entire region of the GR promoter was unmethylated in both groups; and day one after birth, methylation is found in the region in both groups to the same extent.
The changes in methylation pattern then develops within the first week according to the behavior of the mother, and thereafter remain for the rest of their lives. This finding is consistent with earlier studies showing that the first week of postnatal life is a “critical period” for the effects of early experiences on hippocampus GR expression.
This is all grist to the mill, of course, of the fluid, adaptive, and adaptable genome that makes nonsense of the Central Dogma of immutable genetics and associated behavior.
A Tiger can become less dangerous in one generation by exposure to optimum environmental influences -- and pass this on to the next generation. On the other hand, by raising that offspring in a horrid environment, it can be made to develop into a mean and nasty animal. It also means that a sweet captive raised Tiger is far less likely to survive an introduction to the wild. Especially if there is no longer any easy prey with suicidal tendencies around… Politics anyone?
Having recently completed the sequencing of a number of genomes of scientific interest, including the human genome, it has become clear that the more complex an organism, the bigger its genome. However, it is also evident that increased bio-complexity is not reflected by an equivalent increase in the number of protein coding genes in each genome, with, for example, 15,000 in a fly compared with only 40,000 in a human.
This suggests that the DNA sequence itself is not the only source of heritable information, and that mechanisms other than DNA sequence information have been adopted during evolution. The discovery of epigenetic mechanisms that considerably extend the information potential of the genetic code mean that we and other creatures are more than the sum of unchanging genes.
LOVE AND CONNECTION
Not so surprising, some new findings have come along at a fortuitous time. Lowell Getz, research scientist, says love is found in the genes. Altering the expression of a single gene, for example, can switch mouse-like voles from a promiscuous to a monogamous lifestyle. Neuroscientists today are peering into the brain to understand the drive of romantic love, and they are finding evidence backing a 19th-century philosopher's observation: Love has a striking neural kinship with drug addiction.
As they probe love's neurochemistry, researchers are also finding that its neural substrates are conserved among species. "Human romantic love evolved from the same brain system that mediates attraction in animals," says Helen Fisher, a research professor of anthropology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She is one of several scientists who say that animals experience love. Almost any caring animal owner would wholeheartedly agree.
There is no legal precedent to support the AR Industry’s drive to arbitrarily, in wholesale fashion, eliminate private ownership of animals by creating blanket ban laws, especially through fraud and misinformation designed to influence both the public and their elected officials. However, there are many reasons they should pursue rational policing of violations of animal welfare if they choose.
There is no foundation to support the AR Industry’s continued reliance on the critical myth of “intrinsic” or extreme dangerousness of broad classes of animals, especially in ways designed to mislead and excite the public and thus lawmakers. For this activity alone, several AR organizations should have their non-profit status revoked.
There is every reason for government and community to support the tireless efforts of private owners of animals to provide sanctuary, maintenance and dispersion of their gene pool. And to promote the reality that animals are a critical part of nature and, by extension, human happiness, and thus have high value both in law and the very serious issues our entire planet faces. The love of a Tiger can fill the emptiness of many people as well as bring great integrity. Before any of this is made moot, we should stand up to the plate and face the emptiness and hatred of the growing AR industry.
Many thanks to the authors for allowing the use of this article on ExoticCatz.com.
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