Do We Need a Declaration of Independence for Chickens?

Three chickens resting in a chicken coop

In a culture, as with an individual, insanity comes on in progressive stages. Erroneous premises and ideas, left uncorrected, tend to drive out rational ones. Things that make no objective sense start to overtake even simple, perceptual-level common sense.

The characteristics of insanity involve such things as loose associations, perceptual hallucinations and blatantly false beliefs. The overriding and underlying characteristic of insanity is that feelings are equivalent to, and indistinguishable from, objective reality.

That’s how you get to a point where previously reasonable people start to seriously consider if chickens and human beings are not really all that different. Or, even if a majority laugh at the idea, they are helpless in explaining why they’re laughing.

Jason DeWitt, writing at [10/6/14], reported on a YouTube video demonstrating the actions of an “animal liberationist” group known as Direct action. DeWitt writes,

You’re out with your friends or family enjoying a tasty meal at your favorite restaurant. All of a sudden an upset woman comes in and emotionally recounts a harrowing story of a “little girl” named “Snow,” who had been “abused her entire life.”

Dramatic story, except for one small detail. “Snow” is not a little girl.

It’s a chicken.

That’s right. The wackjob in the restaurant is Kelly Atlas, an Oakland, California-based animal rights extremist.

You can watch the two-minute video here for yourself:

It’s easy to label such a person “wackjob,” or an “extremist.” But she’s got a lot of people supporting her, as you can see from the video. While it might be an isolated case of mental illness or psychological collapse, it’s far too calculated for that.

The more compelling thing to examine here is: What are this woman’s assumptions? What are her basic premises?

One premise she holds is that animals are equivalent to humans. But are they? Are there no features which distinguish humans from animals?

For instance, human beings have advanced from the cave and the wilderness to skyscrapers, high-speed computers and spaceships over a period of many centuries. Animals — chickens, for example — don’t do that. Nor can they do that.  They don’t build bridges. They don’t design automobiles. They don’t discover electricity and uses for oil. They don’t define the nature of rights, and they don’t write Constitutions.

Animals can be very savage or cruel to each other, at least by rational human standards. They don’t possess the capacity, as humans do, to evade or deliberately engage in irrationality or evil, such as building Nazi concentration camps or orchestrating terrorist attacks. Because animals do not possess the capacity to think abstractly, they’re subject only to what their biological instincts have preprogrammed them to do. They don’t possess free will, and they do not make choices, not in the sense of having abstract cognition as humans do.

These are some of the basic factors which make animals — including chickens — fundamentally and essentially different from humans.

Yet the point of this video is to get you to think: “Wow. I’d never permit, tolerate or want innocent humans to be murdered and then put on a plate to be eaten. So why should I tolerate it with a chicken?”

As many of us know from our experiences with cats and dogs, we’re capable of projecting certain human qualities onto animals that do not exist. We sometimes think or feel as if the animal is acting with human motivation or cognition, when actually the animal is operating according to the biological requirements of its instinctual programming. One of the brilliant things about the television show The Dog Whisperer was Cesar Milan’s ability to demonstrate, in case after case, how human projections about animal psychology and behavior are almost always wrong. In order to understand dog psychology, you have to understand the nature of dogs, not simply project human beliefs or wishes onto the animal and assume they’re true. (Ditto for cats, chickens or any other animal.)

Yet the woman in this video, who projects onto a chicken the feelings of an abused child, feels no such obligation. She feels what she feels, she expresses that openly, and she expects you to do the same — merely because she feels it.

Another premise of the animal liberationists is that animals have rights, no different from individual human rights. But what are rights? Rights (according to Ayn Rand, with whom I agree) refer to a moral principle defining and sanctioning an individual’s freedom of action in a social context. The concept of “rights” imply that we have choices about certain things, that we’re not solely the product of our preprogrammed instincts, that there are choices we all must face and make in order to (1) survive and (2) get beyond survival to live the kinds of lives we wish to live.

Animals — chickens, dogs, cats, snakes, cattle — don’t have rights, not in this human sense. They cannot benefit from the exercise of choice, because they don’t possess the cognitive basis for free will that humans do. Humans will only survive through the exercise of free will (i.e., cognition); animals will only survive through the successful execution of their instincts.

For these reasons, the concept of individual human rights does not apply to animals.  You cannot apply the human concept of rights to entities or creatures who do not possess the capability to make them relevant.

I realize that a lot of people will say, “Oh, no, animals have rights, just like humans. But you still should be allowed to eat them. It’s going to extremes to say it’s murder to eat an animal.” But if this is your attitude, then you make even less sense than the woman in this video. At least she’s consistent. You cannot have your animal rights and (quite literally) eat them too.

If humans were equivalent to animals, then this woman in the video would actually make sense. Her error doesn’t lie in her “extremism.” Her error resides in her faulty premises. If her premise that animals were conceptually — and therefore politically, in terms of rights — equivalent to humans, then she’d be right in everything she’s saying. In fact, she shouldn’t be required to storm into a fast food restaurant and plead with people to stop eating a tortured chicken. She would be right to assume that our government should be protecting the equal rights of chickens, under the law as American citizens, not to be killed by people who wish to eat, sell or otherwise exploit them.

Property rights of humans are the best way to protect animals. Humans who wish to have cats, dogs, snakes, or even chickens as pets have every right to do so. They also have the right to establish gigantic chicken farms, on private property, to preserve a comfortable life for all the chickens they want. These no-kill chicken farms can include chicken psychologists, chicken spas, chicken physicians and chicken massage therapists. There’s nothing in private property laws to prevent this. Yes, it sounds absurd to most of us. And it is absurd, because chickens aren’t people. But private property rights do allow people to treat chickens as people, if they wish, so long as they don’t engage in physical harm against another’s rights.

Yet private property rights, while the best hope for animals from any perspective, doesn’t seem to be what animal liberationists groups are after. What they’re after seems to be a world where they can storm into a privately owned restaurant, harass whomever they please in almost any way they wish, all for the sake of their feelings that chickens and humans are one and the same. It seems to me that such people are less concerned about chickens than about quieting some inner and fanatically irrational, preposterous need for control, especially over other people, that they have no right to impose.

There is, admittedly, an incredible and insane idiocy in this whole event. But if you don’t know exactly why, then you’re really at the mercy of the irrational forces starting to consume our culture and world. You’re subject to their attempts to intimidate through faulty premises and emotional reasoning. Intimidation and emotion are all they have, because there are no rational facts and arguments on their side.

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