In The Way Things Ought to Be, in a chapter on the animal rights ‘‘wackos,’’ Limbaugh essentially said animals don’t deserve and shouldn’t have any rights because they don’t have the power to claim them. When first I read this, my gut impulse was to retort: The Africans that were enslaved didn’t have the power to claim their rights at the time either, does that make what was done to them right? Is he simply saying ‘might makes right’?

But really I know Limbaugh is right. He’s simply stating a fact. Under our law animals have no rights except as human property. He is also stating an opinion, that animals should have no rights in our law. I’m not going to argue with him on that point. Considering the mindset of most humans on animal rights, it’d be absurd to argue for giving animals protection under the law the same as for humans. It’s just not a realistic point to argue on, and accomplishes little towards broadening people’s capacity for treasuring the life on this planet for itself and of their own free will. Those ‘‘animal rights’’ organizations that advocate such equal legal protection may be of good intention, but their unrealistic approach to the issue often only reaffirms the position of the majority of people who simply in no way see animals anywhere near as equals to ourselves.

For myself this isn’t an issue of legal rights, but of moral compassion, of voluntarily choosing not to murder our fellow creatures simply out of the goodness of our own hearts. And it is that which I would have to take exception with Limbaugh, his conviction that not only should animals have no rights, but that neither do they deserve any compassion for the innate sanctity of their life. Because ‘‘animals and everything else are subspecies whose position on the planet is subordinate to that of humans.’’


Limbaugh tries to soften his position that animals can have no legal rights by lamely trying to make it sound as though he does have compassion: ‘‘. . . before you jump to the conclusion that I am a callous, insensitive, and a heartless animal-hater, hear me out. Before beginning the discussion of rights, let me make it perfectly clear that my belief that animals don’t have rights is not equivalent to saying that human beings have no moral obligation to protect animals when they can.’’ Later: ‘‘Humans have a responsibility toward lower species and must treat them humanely. Humanely, now that’s an interesting term. Doesn’t that mean as a human would like to be treated? Why not treat them animally? Because that would mean killing them.’’ ‘‘[Animals] tear each other limb from limb.’’ But wait a second, I’ve never heard of killer cattle eating other animals, nor have I heard of chickens, pigs, or sheep engaging in such murder and mayhem. So how could treating them animally mean killing them when these animals don’t even kill each other? And yet we do kill these animals, which, according to the (il)logic of Limbaugh’s statement, means we are the ones acting animally in our treatment of these animals.

To conclusively show just what an uncallous, sensitive, and a hearty animal-lover he is, Limbaugh says we have a responsibility not to slaughter any animal to the point of extinction (what a guy!). As a specific example, he says we ‘‘should not allow elephants to become extinct just so a few people can have ivory carvings.’’ But so long as the elephants are herded in wildlife parks and it profits the surrounding population, he sees nothing wrong with killing a set number of elephants for their tusks and hides. He says animal rights wackos only want to ‘‘attack the American way of life’’ and ‘‘obstruct human progress’’. It’s obvious he has no respect for these animals outside how they can profit mankind.

Limbaugh does not believe humans have a ‘‘moral obligation’’ to protect animals when they can; he believes they have a responsibility to prevent extinction so they may continue to slaughter these animals for their own self-interest. That’s clearly his position, no matter how disingenuously he dresses it up as compassion.


The reason animals are held in such low esteem is because of the traditional view that man and man alone is a rational animal. Limbaugh points out that only recently has there been any acceptance of the opposing view that all animals have intelligence, and mostly among scientists and the educated classes (those pesky scientists and educated people——they think they’re so much smarter than the rest of us).

Actually, the view that animals have intelligence isn’t necessarily one of education, but of basic observation. All one need do is observe animals to note that they think about what they do. Granted what they do is usually limited to base necessities of living, but their actions are clearly the result of thought. Just because those thoughts are formed as a result of stimuli from the natural world around and within them in no way lessens the reality of the individual thought process all living creatures engage in.

But Limbaugh would have us believe these animals are like machines simply reacting to preprogrammed instructions, citing some brain who concedes bees make hives, birds make nests, and beavers make dams, but those productions are purely ‘‘instinctive.’’ So, what, when a man cuts down some trees and builds a house this is the product of rational thought (even though it may be a skill that’s been passed down from generation to generation), but when a beaver cuts down some trees and builds a dam it’s just acting on instinct? Well then, what prompted that human to build a house? To protect himself from the natural elements, for self-preservation——isn’t this in and of itself an instinctive tendency?

There’s no denying that humans are infinitely smarter than the smartest animal below us, but I don’t see why this needs to make Limbaugh take the position that we’re the only creature capable of reason. Man may indeed be the only animal capable of complex thought, but we’re also the only one that becomes consumed with arrogance and insecurity. Limbaugh actually seems threatened by the idea that animals may possess some basic element of intelligence.

For reasons unclear to me, Limbaugh appears to consider love the rarest of commodities which can only be spread so thin. This is the only explanation I can figure for why he believes humans can’t love animals more without this causing us to love ourselves less. He asserts that animal rights crusaders are only out to devalue human life, accuses them of holding a ‘‘fundamental premise that animals are superior to human beings’’ and speaks of protecting ourselves ‘‘in this war for dominance of the planet’’.

Clearly the workings of a rational, superior mind.

As yet more proof of animals worthless inferiority, Limbaugh quotes the same brain (Mortimer Adler) as saying: ‘‘In making houses, bridges, or any other of their artifacts, men invent and select. They are truly artists, as animals are not.’’ Yes, people make things to clutter up our lives because we’re a somewhat intelligent species . . . but are one’s creations and collections of things that by which we should judge the value of their life? I can think of no artist who thrills or inspires me like that of our natural world and its many inhabitants.


As someone presently living in a household with three cats, I can tell you all animals have their own quirks and personalities. And these cats are intelligent. They’re also very needy and whine a lot. I would sincerely compare the intelligence of these cats to that of a human infant; often having a pet feels like having a smaller, less dependent child. My cats have the same playful innocence and intelligence of a small child, while having the survival instinct of an adult. They may not know the intellectual difference between ‘‘right and wrong,’’ but they know pleasure and pain, they know love and hate. They’re not capable of such hostility that the difference between right and wrong is even necessarily something they’d need to be able to distinguish between like us more violence-prone humans. They exude a natural capacity for love, and embody a childlike innocence and purity of soul, that simply leaves me in awe. The same could easily be said of dogs, and of just about all other animals.

How the casual, everyday slaughter of these beautiful creatures can have no impact on the conscience of those who support such murder is beyond me to comprehend. Rush says, ‘‘I’ve never killed an animal, I never intend to kill one.’’ But there is no difference between purchasing an animal product and killing the animal yourself. They wouldn’t have killed it unless they thought someone was going to buy it. Supply and demand. Maybe that’s why so few people feel any compassion for this death——because in our industrialized society very few people actually have to witness or commit these acts of murder. Once upon a time people killed their dinner themselves and gave direct thanks for the ‘‘sacrifice’’ of that life (which I might have a grain of respect for), whereas people today have been so removed from this that they view meat as simply another economic product.


There exists a troubling inconsistency (a paradox, if you will) as to why it’s morally acceptable for us humans to kill all the creatures inferior to ourselves. Because most people——such as Limbaugh——present two separate arguments that irrefutably contradict each other.

On the one hand they point out that these animals (or some of them——usually the ones nobody eats) are already killing one another. The second argument is that this murder is justified because animals are so dumb, because we’re so much more intelligent than they. First we point to the animals and say, ‘‘Our actions are no worse than theirs,’’ then we point to ourselves and proclaim, ‘‘And we’re also so much smarter.’’ Don’t people see the inherent contradiction there? We claim to be civilized and then excuse our actions by comparing them to those of the animals we’ve killed. Whereas if we were truly as intelligent and civilized as we like to believe, we’d hold ourselves to higher standards of morality than the animals we willfully kill.

Get it?

Intelligence is not the ability to kill all the other animals below us, that is sheer might and not excusable onto itself; intelligence is the ability to recognize this power of ours and not use it because we know better. That is what distinguishes the greatest mankind can achieve with the natural naiveté of most other animals; not our ability to kill just because we can, but our ability to control and respect and feel humility before this great power.


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