A Discussion on Animal Rights

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A Discussion on Animal Rights

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; The Declaration of Independence holds these rights to be self evident and unalienable. In the eighteenth century when these words were written they were called natural rights, today we call them human rights" (McShea 34). The issue of whether or not to grant animal rights such as those that humans retain, is a greatly disputed issue. Philosophers, clergyman, and politicians have argued the point of animal rights for years, but without success. Animal right is an extremely intricate issue that involves the question of animal intelligence, animal activist groups, and the pros and cons of granting animals their rights.

Psychologists around the world, who have studied nonhuman primates, argue that these animals possess the capacity to communicate. They go on to explain that a communication barrier is all that separates humans from animals. If they bridged that barrier, then humans could talk with animals. Beatrice and Robert Gardner, two psychologists of the University of Nevada, realized that the pharynx and larynx of the chimpanzee are not suited for human speech. Since chimpanzees are far superior to humans in manual dexterity, the Garners decided to try to teach chimpanzees American Sign Language or Ameslan. The Gardners and others studied these chimpanzees, Washoe, Lucy, and Lana. These three chimpanzees learned to use and could display a working vocabulary of 100 to 200 words. They also distinguished between different grammatical patterns and syntaxes (Sagan 615). Besides distinguishing, the chimpanzees also inventively constructed new words and phrases. For example, when Washoe first saw a duck land on water, she gestured "water bird," which is the same phrase used in English. Washoe invented that gesture for the occasion (Sagan 615). Lucy also displayed her creative mind by signing "candy drink" after tasting a watermelon. The description "candy drink" is essentially the same word form as the English "water melon" (Sagan 615).

Another method of bridging the communication gap between humans and animals is by computer. At the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, researchers teach chimpanzees like Lana a specific computer language called "Yerkish" (Sagan 616). "Yerkish" allows the chimpanzees to talk with the computer by keyboarding in messages. The computer in turn responds appropriately. While Lana types, she monitors her sentences on a computer display and erases those sentences with grammatical errors. At one point while Lana typed an intricate sentence, her trainer mischievously and repeatedly interfered with her typing from a separate console. Lana, who had become aggravated by this, typed, "Please, Tim, leave room." (Sagan 616).

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is a nonviolent animal rights organization. They enforce the ideals that any exploitation of animals by humans is wrong and should be abolished. PETA, formed by Alex Pacheo and Ingrid Newkirk in 1984, has grown from a handful of members to an organization with more than 35,000 members and a yearly income of over five million dollars (Dejar 70). They quote Ingrid Newkirk as saying, "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." (Tapply 71). This quotation of Newkirk's states her purpose in organizing PETA and it also provides a platform of ideals for PETA.

They call another pro-animals group the Animal Liberation Front, or ALF. ALF commits violent and illegal acts to make sure that their point is apparent to all. Like PETA, ALF also seeks to end all human exploitation of animals, but unlike PETA, ALF will use any means possible to achieve their goal. ALF originated in England in 1974 by a man named Ronnie Lee. An anonymous woman who goes by the pseudonym "Valerie," organized the American branch of the ALF after training in terrorist techniques in England. The American ALF made their American...
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