Friday, March 09, 2007

PETA's conundrum

I wonder what animal rights activists will say about this:

With $1 million in funding from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), [entomologist Karen] Kester is studying ways to use roaches and houseflies as toxin sentinels inside contaminated buildings or subways. This, of course, spares humans the job, and it may prove more effective than mechanical sensors, which often lack the range and sensitivity of their living counterparts.


Bees and fish are also in demand. A small British biotechnology firm called Inscentinel is employing the finely tuned olfactory system of bees to sniff for explosives. And New York, California and Maryland are exploiting the highly sensitive nervous system of bluegill fish to test for toxins in municipal water supplies.

You can see why this might be a problem for advocates of animal rights. The rationale, as stated at the end of the article's first paragraph, boils down to "better them [animals] than us," much the same rationale used in most animal experimentation. I generally agree with this line of thought, but on occasion I, too, cringe at the way animals can be used, and question whether their use is always necessary (I need to write an essay on the constructive uses of our burgeoning prison population-- uses other than entertainment).

There are at least two different ethical schools of thought that often come into conflict: (1) the school that says human life is too precious to be risked in dangerous experiments and/or tasks, and (2) the school that says all sentient life should enjoy the same rights.

The second school is peopled primarily with axiovegetarians-- that's my own knee yolo jism (found nowhere else on Google! ha ha!) derived from axios/axia, the Greek word for "worth" or "value" (as in the field of axiology, the study of morals, ethics, and values), plus the word "vegetarian." These are folks who refuse to eat animals, even in small quantities, because they have determined that the killing and consumption of animal life is immoral. Most if not all members of PETA are axiovegetarians; witness this recent PETA blog post, in which PETA takes Al Gore to task for being (a rather obvious) carnivore.

I'm not sure how many people truly belong to the first school of thought. Most people I know, when pushed, will acknowledge that society needs people willing to undertake risky endeavors for the good of all. Law enforcement comes readily to mind, as does construction work. Nowadays, in some sectors of American society, teaching children can be a dangerous business.

But what would axiovegetarians say about the exploitation of insects? I need to read up on PETA and its ilk to see whether they stand up for the rights of creatures with more than four legs. Me, I thought it was the coolest thing back when Japanese scientists rigged up some insects with circuits and were able to manipulate their movements via remote control (see this 2001 webpage here-- that shit rocks). There are few things more entertaining than a pest forced to do your bidding. I'd like to hook some people up to that technology and become their sovereign. You can bet they'd be forced to go to the zoo and fellate gorillas.

I think I'd better stop here before this post gets any messier.



kwandongbrian said...

I don't know why people get all worked up against animal testing of products. I'd love to get all those free cigarettes and cosmetics!

Maven said...

Color me truly oblivious, however, has PETA ever come out and made a public statement on the HUMAN suffering that is going on in Iraq? Or how about stateside?

How is their work and efforts, or by default the lives of the animals they advocate, any greater than say, military (I'm envisioning Vietnam Veteran Era) veterans, who (we should be ashamed to acknowledge) make up 9% of the U.S. population but 23% of the homeless population. Among homeless men, veterans make up 33%. What about HUMANE treatment for those who served our country and helped ensure our liberties so these crackpots can go out on their soapboxes, denegrating meat eaters or animal shelters or animal testing (which contributes A LOT towards ensuring safe products for our society).

How are the animals' lives, struggles, abuses and subsequent and certain deaths any MORE noble than a HUMAN who served their country?

Where is the HUMANITY in that?

And more importantly, how are groups like PETA not classified for what they are in the "neighborhood of" [T-E-R-R-O-R-I-S-T-S].

Kevin Kim said...


You rock. You've hit on a concern that I share with my dad-- the proper treatment of vets. No matter who's president, the vets rarely seem to get what they actually need. That recent disgrace about Walter Reed's shoddy facilities was painful to read, though not exactly surprising.


Maven said...

Here's something to chew on...

For every Walter Reed that's out there, you know there are so many others that are not getting any media attention whatsoever. It's only getting attention because it's in D.C.

It's kinda like Gitmo that way. You think that's the only underground jail facility holding individuals against their wills, against our Constitution, and against the Geneva Convention?