Commentary: Animal rights gone wrong

Count on the extremists in the animal activist community to take the idea of protecting farm animals completely over the top. Behold: The ‘Animal Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Here's the latest chapter in a saga that dates back to the days of "55 Saves Lives."

And if you can remember that, like me, you're probably squinting at the screen though your bifocals at the moment.

As of last month, animal rights activists in the group Animal Justice Canada have launched a campaign to publicize what they're calling an "Animal Charter of Rights and Freedom."

As a commentator writing in the National Review characterized it, "The Charter would be an animal rights lawyer full employment act."

Indeed. As drawn up by what I suspect is a law school grad gone vegan, here is the Animal Charter of Rights and Freedoms in its entirety:

Whereas non-human animals experience suffering and pleasure the same way that humans do;

Whereas discrimination on the basis of arbitrary characteristics, such as species, is a violation of equity, natural justice and the rule of law;

Whereas our legal system must not exclude the most vulnerable members of society;


"Animals" means sentient, non-human animals.


1). Animals have the right to have their interests represented in court.

2). Animals are persons under the law.


3). Animals have the right to be free from pain, injury or disease.

4). Animals have the right to be free from abuse and neglect.

5). Animals have the right to be free from fear, and emotional and psychological distress.


6.). Animals under human care have the right to adequate, species-appropriate food and water.

7.). Animals under human care have the right to safe, clean, and comfortable shelter.

8). Animals living in the wild have the right to enjoy a clean and ecologically sound natural habitat, free from human intervention or exploitation.

9). Animals have the right to socialize with friends and family in a manner that is appropriate for their species.

10). Animals have the right to engage in normal and natural behaviours (sic this is Canada, remember).

There you have it. To an attorney, this document would be the legal equivalent of the conquistadors claiming the New World for Spanish crown: Untold riches just waiting to be exploited. Just as the first waves of colonists and settlers to America began consuming what they considered to be unlimited natural resources, animal rights lawyers look upon a landscape where Americans have more than 220 million pets, a cattle herd exceeding 95 million and a host of endangered species whose images would look awfully appealing as the face of a class-action suit and think likewise: We just struck gold!

Personally, the Animal Justice legal wanna-bes lost me with the first three words of their so-called charter: I'm sorry, but "non-human animals: is taking the concept of political correctness to an absurd length. Of course, that phrase is the foundation on which the entire case for establishment of animal rights rests.

If lawyers could gain what's known in the legal system as "standing" for our four-legged, fur-and-feathered friends, then everything else that follows in the list of rights and freedoms would be actionable if violated.

I cannot imagine that happening. Even if a sympathetic judge somewhere grants the premise of this campaign, it's inconceivable that a higher court would be prepared to accept cows and pigs and chickens waddling into court because some farmer missed their 10 am feeding.

On its face, it's tempting to simply dismiss this entire campaign as a ridiculous work of a bunch of crazies.

I said "tempting." Unfortunately, there are plenty of consumers out there who buy into the notion that, "Animals have rights just like us." Such a stance is born out of a failure to anticipate the consequences of enacting an Animal Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but when a radical proposal sounds plausible to people, they tend to offer support without any serious analysis.

Exhibit A in that regard is mandatory GMO labeling.

One final thought as to a reasoned approach to this notion that animals have the same rights as people. Nowhere in this list does either the word or the concept of "responsibility" appear. Yet our rights as inextricably tied to concurrent responsibilities as citizens and members of the human community.

It's bad enough to demand that animals "have the right to be free from fear, and emotional and psychological distress" anyone ever hear about that "fight or flight" reflex? but it's even more outrageous that activists can concoct an entire legal construct without any thought whatsoever as to what have to do to earn their alleged rights.

That alone exposes the self-serving slant of this campaign.

It's not about "non-human animals." It's about animalistic people looking out for their own interests

Gee, isn't that what virtually every animal spends it entire life doing? 

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.