In Soviet Wales, Organ Donates You!

Last year, I was with friends in Wales, (Wrexham to be specific). On one afternoon we went shopping and they told me that I had to pay 5p for any bags I used. In other words: supermarkets, grocery stores, retail outlets – if you want to bag your goods there is a 5p mandatory fee for the bag. Why? Because the Welsh government passed a law forcing all retailers to impose a 5p fee on shopping bags. On principle, I refused to buy a bag in any store I went to. I even carried my goods the old fashioned way. Silly? Petty? No. Because this is the thinking behind the Welsh government in plain terms:

  1. People aren’t giving enough to charity, in our wise opinion.
  2. We want people to give more to charity, despite the fact they already have the free choice to do so and obviously are choosing not to.
  3. If we point a gun at private citizens who own retail shops, they will have to do whatever we tell them.
  4. Let’s do just that, and order them to surcharge their customers, other private citizens, into paying for carrier bags.
  5. Let’s then give that money to a charity/charities of our choosing.

Stop for a second and ask yourself what the reaction would be if a private corporation used its economic power and customer loyalty to increase its profits by simply raising prices on items that customers couldn’t do without? There would probably be uproar and boycotts and harsh language and another round of “blame all the greed and evils of the world on capitalism”. Actually, it might not get that far: the government might step in to stop one group of innocent private citizens from agreeing terms with other innocent private citizens because another group of citizens doesn’t like the idea. However, that same latter group of objectors is usually the sort which despises the very idea of a free enterprise gaining wealth through voluntary trade through value exchange, but has absolutely no problem with the State using its monopoly of physical force to dictate, at the point of a gun (because that is what physical force ultimately is), what two people may or may not trade and for how much, and whether your right as a human being to aid those in need, or not, is acceptable.

But it’s all for a good cause, isn’t it?

No. For years I have warned and written about fascism in our governments and how it will only keep increasing. I can use all the clichés I’d care: a slippery slope; the thin end of the wedge; the tip of the iceberg. The point is the same. When my friends told me that the law required a 5p compulsory charge on carrier bags, my first reaction was disbelief. ‘What a blatant and horrific abuse of political power!’ But, because it’s in the name of charity, the law was passed. (Of course, it wasn’t a law, it was a statute. A law in classic terms is one that protects the rights of human beings. Historically, no one is above the law, not even the Monarch or the government. Our governments get around this by issuing statutes, which are only valid because we don’t know any better to object. Of course, we are led a merry dance by a legal system, in league with lawyers, magistrates and the police, into thinking we have no lawful recourse. We do. It’s called the word ‘no’. But I digress…)

For one thing, charity at the point of a gun is not charity. If you want to give to charity, why do you need to be forced to pay for a carrier bag to do so? And even if you’re lazy and/or mindless enough to tolerate such decisions being taken off your fragile little mind, please don’t pretend to speak for the rest of us.

This is what happens when a government thinks it is on a holy crusade to make the world a better place. Why is this a bad thing? Because it comes down to how a government gets its own way, as opposed to the way the rest of us get what we want. It comes down the difference between economic power and political power. What is the difference between the two? What is the line? Where is the line? This is a question that is almost never asked in political debates, and never answered. Too many people have too much to gain by clouding the issue. The difference is this: physical force. As much as the Left would like you to believe differently, a vast corporation can only get to the top through exchanging values (it can get there through bribery and corruption, but only by the very system the Left wants). A corporation is only successful when it wins and retain customers. Customers are FREE to choose a corporation or its competitors. If they have no choice, then the corporation is the only one which can give them what they want. Without that corporation, they couldn’t have what they wanted anyway. This is economic power – the power to leverage based on the values you possess. Political power is exactly the opposite. Political power is this: do what I say, or I will hurt you. Or: do this and I will hurt you. No corporation is allowed this power, rightly so. Governments should have this power, otherwise they couldn’t function. But that is why this power should be used so sparingly and be strictly limited. The power of the government is: the right to point a gun at a person and force them to act (or not act), or punish them for acting (or not acting). This is why a government’s roles must be clearly defined. In other words, we the people invest our right to self-defence in the government and say: only you may use physical force, for everyone else it is banned. This, this and this, is where you should use it, and in no other circumstances.

It is the government’s sacred duty to protect our Rights. It is most certainly not the government’s job to decide whether or not we are giving enough to charity, and force us to charge other people on carrier bags!

If the government can use its power so flagrantly and arbitrarily, what else will it decide to do? What other moral crusades will it embark on?

When I heard about the 5p carrier bag levy, I said ‘it won’t stop there.’ And I was right…

http://news.sky.com/story/1110822/wales-approves-organ-donation-opt-out-law

…because now the Welsh government has decided that all its citizens are organ donors, unless they state otherwise. Let’s think about the implications of this for a moment: by simply living in Wales, this agency has assumed that it has the power to make claims over your body! The fact that you can opt out is irrelevant. The level of sheer arrogance and abuse of power to instantiate such a statue is mind-boggling. It is despicable and evil. By what possible power does such a government even base such a ruling on? How on earth does it get away with such a blatant violation of individual rights?

Let me say this again, because it’s being trotted out by those wishing to defend “paying back Caesar’s things to Caeser”: the fact that you can opt out is irrelevant! The very notion of “opting out” implies that if you don’t, you have consented to be an organ donor, which implies that the government’s claim over your organs is valid, which means that the government owns your organs…unless you explicitly claim them for yourself! I try to keep a modicum of decency on my blog, but, seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?!

What greater example could there be of a government claiming: ‘your life belongs to us’?

This is collectivism through and through. This is why a government that acts for “moral” reasons should never be trusted. This is why altruism and collectivism are two sides of the same coin. It is why collectivism always leads to Statism. It is why altruism is inconsistent with human well-being.

Almost all of us have come across the “classic moral dilemma” thought experiment at one point in our lives. The scenario usually involves a runaway train and people lying on the track, or a doctor who needs to save ten people at the cost of one organ donor. Even when confronted with the ten versus one “dilemma”, most people wouldn’t choose to kill the one innocent man to save ten (or even a hundred) because we recognise that regardless of the numbers involved, that one man’s life doesn’t belong to us. We also know, in our hearts, that the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. Or perhaps we’re more comfortable with the thought of a faceless government taking from a faceless man, something we wouldn’t be prepared to do ourselves if we had to look him in the eye and explain why.

But here, the Welsh government (perhaps drunk on the power of finally being able to rule its staggering population of 3 million (less than a major UK city)), has turned that thought experiment into reality. Oh dear, it seems they’ve actually taken it literally: what do you do when you aren’t getting enough organ donors? Claim ownership of all the people you are faithfully entrusted to protect, and their organs. It’s amazing what you can do with power, isn’t it?

Of course, this raises the question: why are organ donations so low? Well, I don’t claim to have all the answers to that, but it seems to me that organ donations historically rely on one key factor: someone has to die. (But hey, we might not have to even wait for that in the future.) Maybe organs are becoming harder to get because fewer people are dying? Which raises an even more interesting thought experiment: what if, due to medical advances (no, don’t laugh – even with the NHS, it could happen…), the quality of life greatly reduces the incidence of death, and life expectancy increases? What if, due to these factors, organ donations drop 90% over the next 50 years? My question to the Welsh government is: what then?

Of course, the obvious retort might be: “we’re not saying more people have to die, just that more people have to donate”, (although it seems somewhat hard to do one without the other…). So, maybe there are plenty of deaths (hoorah), but not enough people consenting to be organ donors? It almost makes you think there could be a perfectly valid moral reason that free individuals have chosen not to be cannibalised for their parts after death. Or, maybe many just never give it a second though. (I admit, I would happily be an organ donor but I haven’t given it that much thought. Is this laziness on my part? Maybe. Does this mean I’ve defaulted on my duties and now my body belongs to the State? Nope.) Perhaps raising public awareness and education is the way to go? Maybe people aren’t feeling particularly generous towards others (I can think of a few reasons why, in this day and age – what, when everyone seems to be lobbying the government to get something off you)?

Nah, much easier to do it by force. And the most damning part of this is that the statue passed by 43 votes to 8 with two abstentions. That’s 81% of the government which saw no problem in claiming property rights over the people it exists to protect.

This wicked and inhuman action by a tin-pot government sets a very dangerous precedent, just like the silly 5p carrier bag fee did.

And the saddest part is that the most outspoken critics of this action are religious leaders! Jesus Christ, what have we come to when the people who believe in invisible beings in the sky are the ones leading the charge for morality?! Oh but don’t worry, these are the nasty religious zealots the left-wing humanists are so eager to get rid of before they fill your kids’ heads with nonsense (in their Church of England or Catholic school, where they’d probably get a better education than your secular state school anyway).

The arguments in favour of the bill? “It will save lives”. The British Medical Association praised the bill, also praising how Wales was “leading” the UK on the ban on smoking in public places years ago. The only thing the Welsh Assembly is leading is the march towards statism (and given the competition that’s an impressive feat).

It will save lives.” When that is the strongest moral justification for the monstrous violation of an individual’s sovereign claim to his own life and property, things will only get worse. I was going to make a rather macabre list of all the people who could be sacrificed if the end goal was simply to save more lives, but I won’t. I’ll leave it to you to think through the implications of this line of reasoning.

This little fiasco is, for me, a perfect example of the socialist mindset in action: erode the notion of genuine acts of kindness and compassion between human beings by assuming that such actions are a duty, not a free gift. Therefore, undermine the only genuine basis for human compassion (free will) by making charity a penance to be exacted for the sin of not giving enough.

Remember this the next time someone tries to tell you you’re living in a democracy. Did you give the State the power to lay claim over your body? Probably not. Even if you did, does any government have the moral right to take such a power even if it were offered up? Even if it could, do you have the right to claim the body and organs of another, using the government as your proxy? Does anyone group, no matter how large, have such a right? Does the number of people who claim your body change the fact that it is yours, your property, and no one else’s? Does any group, gang, minister, assembly, or representative have the moral right to make such a claim?

Only if your life belongs to the State by default. Which means that, after thousands of years of recorded history, having resigned tribalism to primitive corners of the earth, after the feudalism and despotism of the Dark Ages, having survived the Pharaohs and the Emperors and the Lieges, having outgrown the Divine Right of Kings and slavery, having fought civil wars to establish constitutional republics, having written the Magna Carta and the Constitution of the United States, having fought at least one world war against fascism, after seeing “The People” of communism intentionally starve millions , and “The Father Land” of German slaughter millions in its quest for perfection, after bringing the Berlin wall down… in the year 2013, in Wales, if you do not explicitly declare your body to be your own property, the State needs must take it as it wills.

It’s said the Welsh Assembly is “leading the way”. The scary thing is, where there are leaders there are followers.

Cheating and hypocrisy in football

Did he dive? Didn’t he dive? Did he exaggerate a tackle? Was it inside the box or not? Did he use his hands deliberately to control the ball? Do two wrongs make a right?

Football is rife with cheating. But the worst part is that almost everyone involved in the game is either deluded or a hypocrite.

To take just one recent example: the weekend before last Liverpool played Arsenal at Anfield. Luis Saurez, not exactly everyone’s favourite player at the moment, skipped through several Arsenal challenges in the penalty box and dramatically tripped over Czechny the Arsenal goalkeeper. The referee awarded a penalty. Replays showed barely any contact, yet Suarez went down theatrically as if shot in the back. Subsequent replays however showed that there was contact, and thereby by the letter of the law it was indeed a penalty. (Indeed, there doesn’t have to be contact for a penalty to be correctly given, but that’s off-topic). Incidentally, a friend of mine made the point that Suarez was looking for the dive and was on his way to ground anyway, before contact was made. The contact made it a penalty, but it was already a dive. It’s hard to disagree with this argument.

The Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger recently criticised Suarez, saying “It was no penalty. Nobody touched him”, despite contact having occurred. He added “then when they roll down the sock, take the shin pad out like he has been kicked like mad. It is a bit overboard. We don’t need that.” What Wenger means here is that exaggerating a tackle (or lack thereof) to con the referee into punishing an opponent more than they otherwise would (or deserve) is a form of cheating and is therefore wrong. I totally agree. However, this would be far less hypocritical coming from a manager whose teams historically haven’t had the constitution and integrity of wet paper bags. In the same game, every slight Liverpool touch was met with dramatic collapses from Arsenal players, lying on the ground in agony, taking ages to recover from the horrendous aggressive assault on their person…for about 10 seconds after which a miraculously recovery was made. (The only actual harm caused in that game was by an accidental collision between Henderson and Arteta, the latter needing to be stretchered off…because that’s what real physical harm causes.) Surely a dive is a dive, no matter where it happens on the pitch?

Now, I’m not criticising Arsenal here particularly, and I’m not defending Luis Suarez, what I’m saying is that pretending to fake reality to gain an advantage is cheating. Trying to circumvent the rules of the game to gain an advantage is cheating. To take another example which also happens to involve Arsenal (but only because they’re the most recent ones I’ve seen do it): last night’s game against Newcastle saw Arteta take several corners when the ball was quite clearly and deliberately not inside the quadrant. This is an invalid corner and an attempt (albeit a pathetic one) to gain some distance on the set piece. This is cheating! And if you say “there’s a bit of a difference between trying to sneak a foot on a corner and diving in the box to win a penalty” then I’m sorry but you’ve missed the point. Please, tell me which forms of cheating are acceptable or not? Or do we shrug and say “that’s life” or “everyone does it” when it happens in our favour? Who am I kidding – that’s exactly what happens in football! It’s funny how every football manager is a bastion of truth and integrity when his team have been hurt due to cheating, but it’s “I didn’t see it” when it goes in their favour. Worse, they’ll just side with the player despite the cheating, as if it’s just a matter of subjective opinion anyway.

Trying to sneak extra distance on a free kick? Trying to sneak closer than 10 yards to the taker before the whistle has gone? Pulling an attacker down to prefer the red card over a certain goal? Taking the corner outside the quadrant? Pretending to be injured or have been touched in a manner that didn’t happen (inside or outside the box)? Deliberate hand-ball? Kicking the ball away to waste time? Taking advantage of the clock and certain rules (i.e. the goal kick) to waste time? Why is any one of these more acceptable than another?

Again, I’m not defending anyone or singling anyone out for criticism here, because almost everyone involved in football is a hypocrite, prepared to look the other way or sneak any advantage when the ref isn’t looking, protecting their cheats one week whilst criticising the enemy’s the week after. Whatever we’d like to think about cheating or what should be done about it, it happens. Perhaps there are varying degrees, but it’s still cheating. If you really want to stamp it out, start with the only actions you can actually control: those of yourself and your own club. Otherwise, shut up and stop being a hypocrite.

I’m so selfish…and generous

I bought a new TV (television that is – no fetishes involved), and I was left with the choice of what to do with my old one. A few people had inquired about it, including my brother who several months ago asked me for a quote if and when I was selling it. (It’s five years old but still a great TV in perfect condition; my new one is just better!). Instead of selling it on and making some of the money for the new one back, I decided to give my old TV to my bro and his family as a gift. I knew that he wouldn’t be expecting it, which is what made it better. So I drove there (50 minute trip in both directions), for an alleged “flying visit” with my dad. After a cup of coffee I announced I had something for him in the car. I led him out and presented him with my old TV – which is bigger and better than what they currently have. He was speechless at first, then extremely grateful. I explained to him my reasons for giving it to him, as opposed to the other options I had, and he gave me a back-handed compliment. A compliment, because it was intended as such but also because it’s one of the best things someone can say about you whether they intend it kindly or not, and back-handed in the sense that it is often contrasted with generosity. He said it was “very objective” of me. In other words, I reached the decision through pure logic.

It made me smile. You see, my reasons for being generous were purely selfish. The few hundred pounds I would’ve gotten for the TV were irrelevant to me, and paled in comparison to how much this would mean to my brother and his family. Incidentally, it was his wedding anniversary the week previous which I’d forgotten! When my dad said it would make a nice present I was like “oh…yes…the anniversary…” But I was planning to give it to them anyway, occasion or not. It was “objective” of me to make the gift. It was rational, objective, “cold and dispassionate” some might say. I calculated the value of resale versus the selfish pleasure I would get from doing something nice for someone I cared about, and the new value by proxy my old TV would have in my life, through the lives of others. It was precisely because these people are selfish values in my life that made the act generous. If I was to be selfless, by all rights I should’ve given the TV to a bum on a street corner.

Additionally, we could’ve dropped the TV off when he wasn’t around but it was better to see the reaction of receiving a gift, which was another selfish motive in my decision. I wanted him to know that I was doing this for him, and that it was down to my generosity and the value he holds in my life. And I wanted to witness his reaction to affirm that virtue in myself.

So when he said “thank you so much. It’s really appreciated”, I assured him that it was “purely selfish” – and I meant it.

The pleasure I received, the emotion, was the result of my rational actions. Emotion wasn’t the impulse or motive, but the reward. The motive was acting to pursue my values rationally and objectively. Family means more than almost anything else in life, so the decision was easy to make.

Are you selfish or selfless?

The more I think about the nature of selfishness, the more transparent it becomes that all moral and noble acts are selfish. It’s so obvious, (but then everything is in hindsight) I can’t believe I didn’t come to this conclusion myself long before reading Ayn Rand. But the reason I didn’t, and many people haven’t, is due to the corruption of the language and concepts involved.

Obviously selfishness is assumed to be evil and bad in almost all cultures today, and altruism and selflessness deemed to be good. It’s interesting that this is the moral code of religion which atheists have blindly adopted too, but that’s another discussion. Selfishness is taken to mean acting without any regard for others, sacrificing them to oneself, whilst selflessness is taken to be acting for the good of others without regard for oneself. However, Ayn Rand identified a huge flaw with this thinking, namely a false dichotomy; we are left with two polar options that exclude another type of interaction between humans: behaviour that requires no sacrifice of anyone to anyone else!

“How can this be?”, some might ask. “Surely, ultimately, we are acting either for ourselves or others?” This is actually true. All choices and actions we take, however large or small, are in pursuit of values. The question is, are those values our own or others’? Values are things which living beings strive to gain or keep to further their lives. Notice that: their lives. We pursue food, to further our lives. We pursue careers, music, art, entertainment, love – because they further and enhance our lives. All our values are directed at one thing: our lives. If this weren’t true, we would actually strive to acquire values that were of no benefit to our lives, or even detrimental to them. But if this were so, they wouldn’t be “values” since they wouldn’t be valuable. A value is only a value if it’s a positive enhancement. And of course the thing we must all strive to enhance, either consciously or otherwise, is our own lives.

“But I strive to enhance the lives of others!”, some might object. That’s true and I’ll get onto that. But first reconsider the above paragraph: it is only your continued life that allows you to take any action, pursue any value. If you’re dead or incapacitated, you can’t act for the enhancement of anyone. It is therefore life which makes value possible. Your own life gives rise to your values. Before we pursue anything, we must first pursue our own lives.

“Well, that’s obvious enough. What’s your point?” The pursuit of our own values (and therefore life) is a selfish act. We must evaluate things in our life, judge them as worthy, evaluate them as positive or negative, and pursue or avoid them. Each of us has to do this. No one can think for us, and we cannot think for another. We must act in our self-interest, because the alternative is misery and (ultimately) death. This may sound dramatic or radical, but it’s undeniably so: eventually you are either pursuing life, or its opposite.

“But if each of us pursues our own lives, what becomes of relationships?” Actually, it is only self-interested behaviour that allows for the beauty of human relationships; family, friendship and lovers. Consider: every person you hold dear is a value in your life. As such, they enhance and further it. It is positively selfish to have friends and lovers. If it weren’t, the people in our lives would actually be those we didn’t care for at all! But the best part is that just as the people in our lives are our selfish concern, so we are theirs in their life! What sort of friendship would it be if our “friends” were not values to us, but we maintained contact out of duty or guilt or fear? Would you want someone as a friend under these terms? Would someone want a lover based on force or blackmail? What sort of meaningful relationship could exist if the person we wanted didn’t really want us? And who would want another person who wanted us but whom we felt nothing for?

Obviously, self-interest is at the heart of not only every rational action of individuals, but it is the foundation of all honest human relationships. In voluntary relationships, both parties give, both receive, but no one loses out! This is the essence of the idea of not giving more than you should, nor withholding more than you should. A relationship where one gives and gives but doesn’t receive requires the sacrifice of yourself to another. A relationship where one takes and takes and never gives requires the sacrifice of another to yourself. No one wants a relationship like that. But this is the very definition of selflessness!: sacrifice, altruism, self-denial. Yet no proper human relationship could or does work this way.

The notion of selflessness has corrupted and bastardised the true virtue of selfishness, to the point where good noble actions towards other people have been couched in altruistic terms – as if it were not possible to be selfish and also be good towards other people. But as we’ve seen, not only is it possible, it is only selfishness that allows true benevolence to others.

“But what about strangers, whom aren’t a value in our lives? Surely that means they mean nothing to us and we shouldn’t regard them?” It is true that strangers are of significantly less value to us than people we know. But there are very practical and moral reasons to be kind to others, based on self-interest of course. Consider the simple act of holding a door open for another. This may appear to be putting yourself, rendering a service expecting nothing in return. But not so! If I hold a door open, I lose nothing except seconds of time. In exchange I get a thank you or smile from another thinking person, a person like me, one of my own kind – which makes me feel good. I have helped someone at no cost to myself, another bonus. I have directly contributed to a feeling of good-will between individuals, and since society is nothing more than a collection of individuals, I have contributed positively to the society I live in. This might encourage other people to act the same, and obviously living in a society of good-willed people is a selfish concern of mine – it is much preferable than living in a society of cutthroat thoughtless thugs. I also go up in that person’s estimation; they think higher of me and I want people to think highly of me, because it might open up opportunities for me down the line.

In fact to deny this is patently stupid: who would assert that consistently acting negatively to others is actually in one’s self-interest? Consider the person who consistently acts with disregard for other people. That person consistently loses the estimation and praise of others (a selfish and often necessary requirement), and their personal and professional relationships. What would we think of the self-esteem of such a person? If they do not bother (or care) to act in their own self-interest, they cannot have a very high opinion of themselves to consider themselves worthy of their own benefit. If they cannot care to pursue their lives, they certainly cannot care about others’. And no one would want that person as a friend. And why? Because friendship only works between selfish individuals. The selfless person is thoughtless and self-destructive, since they care less about their own life. Now think how ridiculous it is to assert, for example, that a thrill-seeking drug abuser is acting selfishly: to act for your own destruction without regard for one’s life or the thoughts of others is actually the most selfless thing one could do! Only a virtuous selfish individual abstains from short-term pleasures due to rational long-term goals. Such is the ultimate act of a healthy ego.

To briefly return to the issue of our values versus those of others – there is no competition here. If someone is a value in your life, their values become your values – and the pursuit of those is still selfish. To deny this would be to claim, for instance, that whilst you care about your child you don’t care if they do well in school or not. Or, that whilst you love your partner, it is irrelevant to you whether they exercise regularly or drink themselves into an early grave.

Being selfish in relationships forces us (in a casual sense) to cultivate positive qualities which make us more valuable to those we care about. Notice how we gain by becoming a better person and the other person gains to? And neither loses out. In fact, because we are a value in the lives of others, and the values of others are values to us, we become our own values! Likewise, the other person is not only a value to us but also to themselves through us. What perfect harmony! How does this manifest itself? Well there are countless ways but some obvious ones could be wanting to keep ourselves healthy (and more attractive), or better educated (and a better communicator), or braver, bolder, more confident. In short, whatever benefits us benefits the other, and whatever benefits them enhances us. But none of this would be possible on a foundation of sacrifice and self-denial.

There are extreme examples of selfishness, such as in emergencies, that are beyond the scope of this article. But to address them very briefly: it’s possible that another person is such an immense value in our lives that life without them would be unbearable. It such situations, we would be prepared to undergo anything to help them, perhaps even at the cost of our own lives. But this too, is selfish. The person who denies this essentially says that dying to save a lover is no different than dying to save an enemy. What’s the difference? The difference is selfishness. We don’t care about the enemy. We care about our lover. Our value, in our life.

So are you selfish or selfless? I’m selfish. In fact I strive to be a little more selfish every day. And I’m proud of it.

Animal treatment and Rights

One story that made the news recently is that of two police dogs who died after being trapped in a car for six hours in the heat of the day. Link.

Across the internet, animal lovers everywhere have condemned the man and called on him to face heavy punishment. Some have even offered prayers and chain postings in memory of the two dead animals.

The topic of animal welfare has been raised and most arguments in support of stiffer punishment for animal mistreatment rest on the presumption that animals have rights. In this article I want to comment on cruelty to animals, whether animals do have rights and the implications of this, and why it matters. I’ll also tell you what I care about and why.

Cruelty and/or mistreatment

Cruelty is the needless and wanton infliction of suffering on a sentient creature. (Contrary to some popular misconception and aided by science fiction, sentient doesn’t necessarily mean intelligent, it means capable of experiencing sensations.) So by this definition, cruelty is always irrational. Being irrational is antithetical to human well-being (that of one oneself and others), and is therefore evil. Cruelty is therefore always evil.

There’s a line of thought that goes: a man who likes to hurt animals will also like to hurt people. I’m not a psychological expert but I wouldn’t disagree with this. I think a person who gets any kind of pleasure from cruelty has poor ethics at best and mental health problems at worst.

Mistreatment of animals is by no means as clear cut: what defines mistreatment? Certainly all handlers agree that animals should be trained and kept in line. Is hitting a dog mistreatment? How hard is acceptable? Leaving it out in the rain? Leaving it out at night? I don’t have the answers to this and I don’t think it’s important to scrutinise it in depth here. But what must be said is: an owner is responsible for their pet and how they treat it. If a pet hurts someone or damages property, the owner of the pet is made to pay compensation, rightly so. Buy why? Well it’s obvious but needs explicitly stating because some people out there (who don’t so much love animals as hate humans) will gloss over this vital truth: animals are not capable of rational action, which means they cannot make moral choices. Therefore, they are not morally responsible for their actions. A human owner is however.

Rights

If you disagree with what I’m about to say, the first thing you must do is offer your own definition of Rights and justify it. Remember that emotions don’t stand up in court, and the issue of Rights and legal action is precisely what we’re talking about.

The philosopher with the most (and only) rational and objective description and justification of Rights was Ayn Rand. Her attention to detail and philosophical genius don’t need restating here. She defined Rights as moral principles defining freedom of action. But why does a being need Rights? Simply put, to act freely. But what good is the freedom to act unless one is capable of freely choosing in the face of alternatives? None. Human beings must consider the choices available to them and make free moral decisions. Being a moral being, which we are, is meaningless though unless we are also free to act. After all, what good is the freedom to choose if we aren’t free to act? Prisoners aren’t free, like hostages aren’t, or mug victims. So our nature as free moral agents necessitates Rights. But then the obvious conclusion to this fact is that creatures which aren’t moral agents, which don’t have the ability to think rationally and choose in the face of alternatives, cannot have Rights. Remember: rights are not entitlements; they aren’t blessings or favours which are granted to certain people from others, from society, from the State, or from God. They are principles inherent in our nature. So by definition, animals cannot have Rights.

That doesn’t sound right to me

That is something I hear a lot. It’s something I had to come to grips with too. It does fly in the face of a lot of what we’re brought up to believe and get told. But there is a false assumption implicit in the deniers of the fact that animals don’t have Rights: they perhaps think “if animals don’t have Rights, it’s ok to abuse them”. But that is not the case! The false premise lurking here is that Rights are somehow based on the ability to feel pain. But as I’ll explain next, that doesn’t make sense:

As we saw above, Rights are moral principles to guarantee freedom of action for moral agents like humans. It is the Right to Life, which all of us have, that gives rise to all our other rights: the right to pursue happiness, the right to liberty, the right to not have force used against us. To say that a person has the Right to live but not have the right to not be killed for food, is an obvious contradiction which no one in their right mind would claim. We don’t kill people for food (culinary arguments aside), not because they have a “Right to not be eaten for food” but because they have a Right to life! The “Right to not be eaten for food” makes no sense! And who would claim that a person has the Right to avoid suffering, but not have the Right to live? If this were true, it would be legal to murder someone, but not torture them! Bear this in mind when we talk about animal rights: animals are killed for food by the millions every day. Some small sects aside (like vegans), even those who believe in animal rights still accept that it’s ok to eat them for food. But there is a massive contradiction here: if animals have the right to live, they should not be killed at all! I wouldn’t accuse well-meaning people of being hypocrites, as I think a lot of us do and have made this mistake in innocence, but I think a lot of people could do with stopping and checking their own premises. As a good writer said to me: “if you believe in animal rights but eat meat, stop right there – go away and rethink your position.”

“But surely animals have Rights to protect them from cruelty?” some say. That sounds fair, it sounds nice, but it is false. Rights aren’t based on the ability to suffer, but on the necessity for freedom which only a moral agent needs.

Why does it matter?

It matters because the real issue here isn’t whether animals have Rights or not, it’s what Rights actually are. The issue of individual Rights is possibly the most important issue in human history because all crimes committed by one person against another involve the violation of Rights, that’s why it’s important to be very particular about the concept. ‘But why is this about human rights and not animal rights?’, you might ask. It’s about human Rights because Rights are the principles that say to every one of us “you may act as freely as you want, but you must not violate the Rights of others.” Which means you and I are totally free to live our lives as we choose. Your Right to live doesn’t clash with my Right to live: as long as we don’t infringe on the Rights of others, there is no contradiction between our lives, or Rights, ever! In fact, when understood this way it is clear that Rights simply cannot conflict. To illustrate this, let’s say that you have the Right to your earnings after a day’s work. I come along and claim that I am hungry and need your money. I claim that I therefore have a Right to your earnings. Here we have a conflict, but it’s easily resolved. If you have the Right to life, you must have the freedom to pursue that life. One of the ways of doing this is through work and earning money – in other words: property. Your right to property is a result of your Right to life. So since the property is rightfully yours, it cannot be rightfully mine. Your right to life, and property, and earnings is the only claim that matters. I can therefore have no “right” to any of them.

Humans versus animals?

Now, because humans make moral choices, we can choose to not violate the Rights of others, and most of the time we do this quite well. I choose not to violate your Rights and you choose not to violate mine. But, animals can never make this kind of choice. An animal does what it does either by training or by instinct, but never after rational and moral consideration. If animals were to have Rights, they would necessarily clash with human Rights, since we would be forced to respect their rights but they could never respect ours. There would be no resolution to the contradiction: humans would necessarily have to surrender their Rights to unthinking amoral animals. Imagine the full implications of this: no meat for food – at all. No wood for homes or fuel if animals need the trees. No cultivating fields to grow vegetables in case it displaces or kills animals. A world where animals have Rights is a world where humans can’t.

So where does the Law come into this?

If we accept that the job of the Law is to protect Rights (and how could it be anything else?) then it becomes clear that only humans should be protected by the Law. One of the ways it does this is to arbitrate in legal matters. Consider how silly it would be if we put cats on trial for killing mice, lions on trial for killing gazelles, dogs on trial for mauling babies. Consider the travesty of proper justice if we appointed lawyers for gerbils or took testimony from rabbits. ‘You’re being silly now. No one goes that far!’ some might say. Yes, these are ridiculous examples, but I’m not the one saying that animals should be protected by the legal system. If we “gave” animals Rights, they would have all the benefits of a legal system they can’t comprehend, and none of the consequences.

So it’s ok to abuse animals?

No no no. But before we condemn the actions of genuinely evil people, let’s take a step back. What do we mean by “ok”? Do we mean “legally accountable” or “morally reprehensible”? Before you jump to answer, think about this because there is a difference. In days gone by, homosexuality was punishable by death. It still is in some parts of the world. Sex outside marriage and blasphemy were (and are) also considered criminal acts and worthy of capital punishment, based on some rather warped moral opinions. Am I equating cruelty to animals with being gay or blasphemous? Of course not. The point I’m making is that the law isn’t there to police morality, but to protect Rights. There are many people out there who’d love the chance to use the Law to police their version of morality on you. The last thing we want is a government that polices morality. We’ve seen it before, we’re seeing it now, and it never looks pretty.

So animals aren’t protected at all?

Actually, they are. There is a very important exception to how animals should be protected under law, and that is as the property of humans. If a person harms or kills a pet they should absolutely be punished.

Do I care about animals?

They say it’s bad form to answer a question with a question, but I’ll do both. I’d say “which animals?” Do I care about animals? Well, do you care about humans?

You see, I look at the millions of human beings, beings of our own kind, around the world dying from starvation or disease – I look at scientists, thinkers, creators, businessmen – exploited and robbed of their property – I look at the successful and innovative penalised for the crime of being successful and innovative – I look at how our governments keep infringing on human Rights, granting more and more power to the state and less and less freedom to individuals – I look at how fiat currency and government-caused inflation and recession has caused economic collapse and riots across the continent and how it might well come here soon – and I think there are more important issues than two dogs dying in a car.

I care about my animals. I can’t pretend to care about yours, and if you really care about some random animal you have no connection with, why not that one and not the millions which are butchered for food every day?

How do we fight animal cruelty?

The same way we fight any legal but morally wrong action: by social ostracism. We condemn the person and refuse to deal with them. We can encourage others to do the same. The person might lose their job, their reputation, their relationships, and most likely won’t be able to buy another pet from someone else.

What we shouldn’t do is think of the law as our personal exactor of vengeance. The fact that the Law must ruthlessly protect human rights makes it all the more important for it to only protect human rights – because no other Rights exist.

Priorities

I think it’s time for a wakeup call, people.  Fellow humans are having their Rights violated every day, in the simplest to the grossest of manners. This is the sort of thing we should be shining a spotlight on and spreading chain e-mails about. Our tempers should burn when we hear the plight of an innocent man robbed or doctors put on trial by despicable governments for trying to tell the truth, or yet another business being double-taxed and charged for being “too big”, or teenage girls being groomed for sexual abuse or drug dealers and their empires, pathetic little teenagers and their gangs spreading mayhem and violence around towns… These are crimes committed by humans against their own kind. The least we can do, out of respect for ourselves and our fellow beings and our respect for justice and individual rights, is to consider where our priorities lie and what we want to be campaigning for.