Almost immediately after ascending to power, the Nazi Party enacted, in the words of professor and author Hal Herzog, Ph.D., “the world’s most progressive animal protection legislation.” While they were planning the extermination of the Jews and countless other groups of people, the National Socialist Party also fretted over the predicament of lobsters about to be killed and cooked in restaurants. SS leader Heinrich Himmler, who among other things oversaw the Einsatzgruppen, a death squad that shot Jews in the back, once exclaimed to his physician, “How can you find pleasure, Herr Kerstein, in shooting from behind at poor creatures browsing on the edge of a wood… It is really murder.” This is both the most egregious and likely the oldest example of animal rights being prioritized over human rights. In no way is this paper seeking to lump all A.R. activists with the Nazis. By using the most notable example, this essay is merely helping to provide some historical and psychological context. Here, the argument will be made that the animal rights agenda too often relies on sensationalism, distraction and contrived morality.
The most credible argument against the phenomenon of the animal rights movement in the West is that it trivializes human suffering. Herman Goering, in the year he and his fellow Nazi Party members came to power, infamously proclaimed that Germany’s new government would, “commit to concentration camps those who still think they can continue to treat animals as inanimate property.” This is merely an extreme example of animal rights activism prioritizing their agenda over that of human rights. PETA alone [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a leading American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia – OR] grossed just under $52 million in funds for FY 2014. To help put that in perspective, the US government donated $10 million in emergency aid to Nepal in the aftermath of an April 2015 earthquake that killed around 9,000 people (over 30,000 casualties), and caused $5 billion in damages (a quarter of Nepal’s GDP). The ASPCA [American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – OR] for FY 2013, the most recent year they’ve uploaded their financial statements on their site, publically declared their total assets to about $225 million, or a quarter billion dollars. In the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake, US Joint Task Force 505 deployed around 900 soldiers to assist in humanitarian efforts. The ASPCA similarly boasts of having a workforce of between 501-1000 employees on its LinkedIn profile.
It doesn’t take a crack statistical analyst to notice these kinds of discrepancies. These numbers make sense when you take a second to realize the sheer omnipresence of the animal rights agenda in the Western media. In their FY 2013 Financial Statements report, ASPCA declared under their Operating Expenses column over $33 million in “Public education and communications” & about $21 million in “Community outreach”. This comes out to a whopping total of about 42% of ASPCA’s total expenses. This two-fifths portion of their expenditures goes towards pro-animal rights and pro-ASPCA propaganda, such as the masterful and viral 2007 Sarah McLachlan video, which on its own generated over $30 million in donations. Again, this is over triple of what the US government donated in the aftermath of the equally-spotlighted 2015 Nepal earthquake. PETA, most famous for its “I’d Rather go Naked than Wear Fur” campaign, literally has an entire page lovingly devoted to a series of its million-dollar Super Bowl commercials that got pulled for being too sexually explicit.
Clearly, the animal rights industrial complex needs corporation-scale advertising just to sustain itself. Animal rights groups too often resort to gimmicks like nude celebrities or shock value for outreach to potential donators or volunteers, as opposed to rationally informed ethics or, simply, the straight facts. Truth be told, if there were a “I’d Rather go Naked than Support Sweatshops” or “I’d Rather Go Celibate than Support Sex Trafficking” campaign, there would be worldwide condemnation. Human-oriented NGOs are hardly perfect either, what with their tendency to de-humanize the people they’re advocating for through 1-dimensional depictions of suffering and “backwardness”, not to mention a similar penchant for celebrity endorsements. One could reasonably analogize the general cons of human rights groups’ marketing to college students too lazy for nuance, as opposed to the elementary schoolboy motifs of sex and (animal) violence found in animal rights’ most important campaigns.
A lot of this desperately sensuous marketing comes from the unavoidable fact that animals are simply harder to empathize with than other human beings. We can never love an animal in the same way that we can love a child or spouse. No one is going to deny that humans do share special bonds with certain subsets of the animal kingdom, most particularly those denizens whom have been domesticated. It’s a whole other animal trying to elicit empathy for lab rats and other less “cuddly” critters. It can be hard to get the masses behind clamping down on, say, cockfighting, when the species you’re trying to protect is already being slaughtered in the billions for chicken fingers and other lunchmeat, under arguably more brutal conditions. Understandably, the more intelligent animals tend to be the more relatable for humans: dolphins, dogs, cows, primates, horses, etc. However, large swaths of humanity can’t even agree upon which animals should be prioritized. Japan has been criticized for dolphin hunting, parts of mainland Asia have been demonized for dog meat, India’s 1 billion Hindus are theologically offended at the thought of beef, Westerners are shuddering at the thought of the great apes being slaughtered by certain African poachers for their “magical” hands and Europe was disgusted when it found horse mixed in its meats. Clearly, animal protection isn’t the kumbaya slam-dunk that activists make it out to be.
This leads to the larger issue of Western-animal rights creed being preached, often forcefully, to the Decolonized world. Prolific propaganda by ASPCA and smaller groups simultaneously simplify and denigrate (primarily poor) men in poor countries for enterprises such as cockfighting and poaching. No one’s under the illusion that killing roosters and rhinos en masse are human achievements to be proud of. However, in countries as dysfunctional and food-strapped as the Philippines & Malawi, it can often be the only way for unemployed or underemployed rural folk to provide for their families. Should poachers simply starve, economically and literally, because their governments won’t provide them with any other meaningful prospects?
The degree to which this narrative has been reduced to 1-dimensional denigration can be witnessed in blockbuster children’s shows like The Wild Thornberrys. The main antagonists of this show are two poachers (Kip O’Donell & Neil Bedierman), who to be fair are of European descent, as opposed to “backwards” African stereotypes. They are trite villain caricatures, only ever depicted as being greedy, cunning and ruthless. Additionally, white-hat character Donnie Thornberry’s parents were revealed in a TV movie to have been killed by poachers. Meanwhile, Bambi has been teaching kids the unequivocal evil of killing animals since 1942, in arguably a more heartbreaking way than the Donnie Thornberry origin story. In the computer era, there’s also the viral PC game “Cooking Mama: MAMA KILLS ANIMALS”, which uses the PG-rated equivalent of slasher film gross-out tactics to instill in children a hatred of people who deal in meat. These are but a handful of examples of how animal rights adherents use frankly traumatizing narratives to inculcate young kids, dating back to at least the time of the Third Reich.
The effect of this all-encompassing propaganda has been to shift Western society’s empathy away from humans and towards animals- and animal rights organizations. Foreign-funded organizations in Africa literally enforce animal rights through the barrel of a gun. On Yale’s environment page, South African filmmaker Adam Welz in his research has found that national parks’ squadrons from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya to Kruger, South Africa are increasingly being stocked with “armed anti-poaching guards, sniffer dogs, mini-drones, and informants.” The last one he listed is enough to set off alarm bells for people who’ve even casually studied the recent history of repressive secret police states on the continent. The apartheid regime in South Africa and countless others have used the informant system to literally divide and conquer. Obviously, supplying military-grade technology, in addition to surveillance tactics, to these governments is also a very dicey idea. This was apparently lost on the International Fund for Animal Welfare, who published on its website a glowing review of KGB-style sting operations conducted by authorities in the troubled nation of Malawi, complete with cutting-edge tactical hardware likely funded by foreign organizations. The poachers busted were trying to sell ivory totaling in value $533.
The correlations between the crackdown on poaching and that of drugs in America are so uncanny, that US drug policy analysts like Ethan Nadelmann are literally asked to speak on them. You have hopelessly poor young men in the former colonies of the West being hunted down by international police-paramilitary hybrids simply for trying to sell a hot commodity to the West, whether that be cocaine or ivory. Billions are spent on violently oppressing and denigrating them, instead of providing them with better employment opportunities. It can’t be denied that shipping an ever-more sophisticated array of military technology, like drones, to countries with poor human rights records and histories of armed conflict is a recipe for future disaster. The COO of the aforementioned Ol Pejeta, European Robert Breare, ironically admitted that this is creating the precedent for a new military industrial complex in Africa, stating that, “”We estimate we’ve had to spend an additional $2m to protect the rhino that we have” and that he [article author’s paraphrase] “envisages drones complementing, rather than replacing, the sniffer dogs and teams of armed, GPS-tagged rangers connected by a digital radio system.” To top this off, he states that the very drones he’s pushing for are “not a silver bullet. Trying to find the small shape of a poacher in a 90,000-acre park is still difficult, even with high-spec night time and thermal imaging.”
This is but a succinct look at how animal rights organizations are directly diverting countless millions of both public and private dollars to misguided, often misanthropic, goals. The false piety of animal rights conglomerations have been used in the ‘30s and ‘40s by Hitler and the Nazis to help further their genocidal policies, more recently to brainwash adults and particularly children and create a dangerous and an unsustainable military industrial complex in Africa that sounds like what you would get if you combined the nightmares of Eisenhower and Patrice Lumumba. The most fanatical proponents of misanthropy didn’t care if you burned into nothingness, as long as you weren’t a lobster.
Russell A. Whitehouse is a freelance social media consultant and political policy essayist for the Eurasia Review, International Policy Digest & Pressenza. The views expressed are his own and may not coincide with ones of the ORIENTAL REVIEW.