Alain de Benoist: “I would like to be sure that the animal cause is more a matter of sensitivity than sentimentality”
The animal cause has progressed a lot these last years, which has not prevented it from falling into excesses which the persecution of hunters or fans of bullfighting testify to, without forgetting the rise of “veganism” and attacks on butcher shops. They say that you live surrounded by cats. What does the friend of animals that you are think about it?
He rejoices, of course. I am not only a friend of animals, but someone who loves them. The etymology of the word “animal” tells us that it is animated, and thus the bearer of an anima, that is to say a soul. I have no trouble thinking, for example, that the dog Diesel, killed during the RAID assault conducted three years ago in Saint-Denis against Islamist terrorists, had a more beautiful soul than those who murdered him! Nevertheless, when we love animals, we must not idealize their way of life, as so many bobos living in the urban milieu do. The first preoccupation of animals is to survive within the food chain. When my cats eat a fieldmouse, that makes me feel bad for the fieldmouse, but I know that such behavior is in the nature of cats. In short, if I celebrate the success of the animal cause, I would like to be sure that it is more a matter of sensitivity than sentimentality.
The excesses of certain animal activists are as grotesque as the actions of those who mistreat (or abandon) animals are monstrous and criminal. I am struck, that associations such as L214 for example, which had the merit of drawing attention to the abominable conditions in which certain slaughterhouses operate, make no difference between industrial breeding in the style of battery hens or “thousand cow farms” and the traditional farmer's husbandry. Others see no difference between traditional hunting (and the traditions of the hunt) and the massacre of beasts by bloodthirsty people. They only want to see a “cruel spectacle” in bullfighting while it is firstly a sacred ceremony. I also remark that those who attack butcher shops never target ritual slaughter. And I say nothing about the delusions of vegans, who desire to transform us into herbivores in a quasi terrorist manner, which would consequentially cause all domestic species to disappear.
If our ancestors deified certain animals or willingly gave them divine attributes, is that henceforth a reason for anti-speciesists to make us put men and mites on an equal footing?
“Anti-speciesism” is based on the model of anti-racism and anti-sexism, which demonstrates its limits. The term is all the more ridiculous as nobody has ever declared himself “speciesist.” But it is especially fundamentally ambiguous. Does it mean to say that there is no difference between species, that they are all “equals” or that they do not exist? In the matter, we have passed from one excess to the other. In the past we wanted to believe that man only very marginally belongs to the universe living things, and even that he best affirms his humanity by cutting himself off from nature. We opposed nature and culture in the fashion which we previously opposed the body to the soul or spirit. This way of seeing has nourished a destructive anthropocentrism across the centuries. Then, on the contrary, some people decided to deny what is inherent to us in order to see dogs and cats as “people like others.”
The most reasonable attitude is to steer clear of these two extreme positions. Man is doubtlessly related to all living beings: there is not one evolution for humans and another for animals; our DNA is, moreover, 98% identical to that of chimpanzees or bonobos. On the other hand, it's on the human level that we progressively see properties emerge that we do not observe elsewhere: for example, not self awareness, but the consciousness of our own self awareness, not history, but historical consciousness.
People also speak a lot about “animal rights.” Elsewhere they also speak of the necessity to grant rights to robots soon! A justified approach?
The language of rights has invaded everything today. For liberal authors, man is characterized by the right to have rights, after which this definition has been extended to all living things (its waiting to be extended to robots), though these two propositions are absurd. The major theorist of animal rights, the Australian utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer, believes that animals possess rights for the sole reason that they are “rational” beings and conscious of themselves. But, the animal cannot be a legal subject for the evident reason that it is incapable of asserting its rights for itself.
In his Metaphysics of Morals, Kant coldly declares that “man cannot have duties towards beings besides men,” which clearly means that he has none regarding animals. He thus joins Descartes, who saw animals as simple “automatons.” Both approaches are unacceptable. Animals don't have rights, but we have duties towards them, and these duties are considerable. As Alain Finkielkraut said, “the lion will never feel responsible for the antelope. Only man can feel responsible for both.”