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This Washington Post article has a secretly radical animal rights message
Gene Weingarten may be writing about dogs, technically. But his call to compassion goes far beyond our canine companions.
Gene Weingarten, the long-time humor columnist at one of the most important newspapers in the nation, just published one of the best pieces that has ever been written about animal rights. But while the article’s headline is about dogs – “Why are so many people cruel to their dogs?” there’s something deeper at play. Consider this excerpt:
John P. Gluck, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of New Mexico, knows firsthand about the ability of anyone, at all social statuses, to rationalize cruelty. As a scientist, he once tormented monkeys for a living.
They were rhesus monkeys, kept in little cages, subjects of experiments in human behavior. One day Gluck noticed that one monkey — known to him as G-49 — was oddly energized, intent on examining a back corner of her cage, which was a solid steel wall.
“She would run up to it, make facial expressions, then pull back, then run up again,” he told me. Gluck says he investigated, and it turned out that a bolt had fallen out of the rear wall, leaving a half-inch hole. Gluck looked through it, and he saw that it had turned into a peephole to other monkeys in other cages, animals G-49 couldn’t ordinarily see. “She was fighting hard against her limitations,” he says. “Monkeys are highly social.”
Gluck pauses. Many years later, this is still not easy for him.
“I recognized how much I was crushing a life. I had built an intellectual and emotional structure that allowed me to escape what I was doing.” Gluck is now an author and lecturer in human abuse of animals.
Gene Weingarten is not an animal rights activist, or vegetarian. (He talks about eating a turkey sandwich elsewhere in his blog.) He has been a columnist for a mainstream newspaper, indeed one of the mainstream newspapers, for decades. And yet he is recognizing that there’s something about animals, and not just dogs, that, when we look more closely at, we cannot ignore.
They are not things. They are living creatures with a will, just like us.
While Weingarten’s article is just one story, there have been more and more articles in the media in this same spirit. Glenn Greenwald’s powerful exposé of pig farming, which includes a careful review of the evidence of consciousness in our porcine kin. Frank Bruni’s call for “animal dignity.” Nicholas Kristof’s argument that our ancestors will look upon this moment in history with shame, over the atrocities we commit against our non-human neighbors. This profusion of articles – not just about animal welfare, but about animal rights and even animal equality – shows us that the public is warming to the idea of animal liberation. Not because elite media figures such as these are causing a change but, rather, because the elite media tends to follow the preferences of their audience.
This is one of the primary reasons I am optimistic about our prospects at trial, including my felony trial in just a few weeks on November 29. If a distinguished columnist at the Washington Post can write so powerfully about the yearning a monkey has for freedom, then why can’t a jury in North Carolina recognize the right of a baby goat to be rescued from sickness and slaughter?
I don’t mean to say that we are guaranteed to win. The odds are against us, in a county as heavily Red (and farm-oriented) as Transylvania. What I do mean to say is that the time is now for us to test the animal rights movement’s most important question:
Does the public, in their heart, really believe in animal cruelty more than animal rights?
We’ll answer that question, in a preliminary way, in just a few short weeks.