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Double Standards on Abortion and Animal Rights


In Beating Hearts: Abortion and Animal Rights, Sherry F. Colb and Michael C. Dorf, two Cornell Law professors, rationalize their simultaneous support for animal rights and opposition to the rights of unborn humans. The authors, a man and a woman who live with their “two human daughters” and three “adopted” dogs, are decidedly pro-choice. They are also active members of the animal rights movement. They do recognize, however, that not all members of the animal rights movement share their pro-choice stance, and they cite an article by Mary Eberstadt as illustrating the pro-animal, pro-life position.

When it comes to animal rights, their beliefs are as radical as they get. In addition to opposing animal cruelty, a view that they acknowledge to be uncontroversial and shared by the majority of the population, they also believe all animal farming is a form of violence, even if the animals are given humane treatment. They believe it is immoral to eat meat, to consume eggs or milk, and to use leather, wool, or any other animal products. They hold that veganism is morally required, even for children.

Throughout the book, they maintain that man is simply another animal enjoying no greater moral status, no uniqueness, only some differences in degree of evolution. The idea that no “crucial factual difference” or difference “in kind” exists between humans and animals—a claim that many contemporary anthropologists would dispute—leads Colb and Dorf to conclude that humans and animals are equal in moral status. Thus, they argue, neither human health nor life is more important than animal life.

Read more at the Public Discourse. 

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