Thursday, November 3, 2011

Top Journalist Cites My Views on Orca Personhood Case

Jeff Yang is a nationally profiled media person in the United States. He has a Harvard University degree, and was doing a piece for WNYC's political blog, entitled "It's a Free Country." He has written about four books and is very thoughtful. He takes animal rights very seriously, apparently, but it is not clear how much he agrees with it. WNYC is the largest public radio station in the United States with more than a million listeners.

Mr. Yang wished to do a reflection on a recent legal case. PETA launched a lawsuit in the Federal courts arguing that five orcas at Sea World (at two locations, one on each coast) should be freed because they are slaves, and this state of affairs goes contrary to the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The latter unconditionally frees all slaves in the U.S. and its territories. PETA knows they will not win, but are making everybody think.

Mr. Yang wrote to me and asked me for a 15-20 minute interview. We ended up speaking for about 45 minutes, and he quoted one of my insights that highlights part of the nature of speciesist discrimination against nonhuman animals.

The piece he wrote is characteristically very thoughtful, although it ends on a point which I believe shows that Mr. Yang is not used to thinking about these issues. He worries about animals running for office. No one would seriously suggest that, anymore than mentally disabled humans would necessarily engage in such a practice. Mental competency criteria would not suddenly change if animal rights were conceded as well they ought to be.

Mr. Yang also cites Steven Wise's negativism about PETA's move. Personally, I think if we are going to enact animal rights one day, all contrary legislation will be swept aside briskly as was the case with all laws supporting other kinds of slavery. So I am not unduly worried about a negative judgment in this case. But perhaps I am wrong. Professor Wise wants to make a legal case that chimpanzees and bonobos are legal persons. True, the PETA case will make an interesting and relevant precedent. But other judges are free to dissent and disagree with any faulty reasoning denying nonhuman personhood. I think PETA has done a service in getting everyone to think about animals as philosophical and legal persons, but perhaps I am naive.

For your possible reading interest, the piece is linked here

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