You remember PETA, don’t you (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)? They are well known for their outrageous publicity stunts to promote their pro-animal agenda. Well, they are at it again. Their latest attack was against the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team. It seems that in a recent pre-game show, the team let live penguins go out and play on the ice. PETA was upset because they claim it stressed the penguins to be in front of the hockey crowd.
As it turns out, though, it was the Pittsburgh Zoo that provided the penguins for the show. Rather than being a stressor, zoo personnel said that the experience was, in fact, a great enrichment experience for them.
Of course, PETA is always doing things like that. Remember when they publicly chastised President Obama for swatting at a mosquito? And, of course, they also fight against people going fishing and hunting, and eating meat. Additionally, they are against factory farming of animals, and they come all unglued when people wear animal skin – even leather shoes. Their slogan is: Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way.
PETA, and many other animal rights organizations honestly believe that animals should be given rights simply because they are living things. They genuinely equate humans with all other animals, and their rationale is that animals have emotions, and they are able to feel pain when hurt is inflicted upon them. As such, they believe human beings should not be selfish, and that we should treat our animal counterparts with the same respect as human beings – after all, as fellow animals, they deserve it.
Ingrid Newkirk is the current head of PETA. She actually derives her philosophical foundation from an Australian philosopher named Peter Singer. Singer’s approach to philosophy is called secular and utilitarian, and he bases his view of ethics and morality on these beliefs.
As a Naturalist, Singer’s beliefs are based on naturalistic worldview presuppositions; that is, a human being is nothing more than a physical animal creature with a highly evolved brain. Based on this belief, he sees nothing wrong with killing, if it is justified. It is not the intention of this article to get into all of Singer’s controversial views, but a mention of one of them will give you some idea of where he is coming from. One implication of his philosophy, as it relates to the human animal, is that killing handicapped newborns is justified because they cannot have a good quality of life, and they take away from the evolutionary development of the rest of the species.
When it comes to his view of non-human animals, his aim is not to lower humans to the level of the animals that have a smaller brain, but to elevate the status of the less developed animals closer to what humans are afforded. Thus, he believes animals ought to have rights – actual legal rights. Newkirk uses this philosophical base to inform her leadership of PETA.
The truth is, based on naturalistic beliefs, the philosophy of those who lead and influence PETA is not at all surprising. They don’t believe in God or in any kind of transcendent reality. They believe that the natural universe is all that exists. If that is true, everything that exists, including all life forms, had to have some kind of natural origin. They also believe that since there is nothing beyond the material universe, the only way humans can determine truth is by the use of human reason.
In a nutshell, here are the essential core beliefs of Naturalism:
1. What is the nature of ultimate reality?
The natural universe is all that exists, so everything, in all of reality, had to have a natural origin – and it must operate based on the laws of nature.
2. What is a human being?
Human beings are simply one form of natural animal life among many. No single animal creature has greater value than any other.
3. What is ultimate human beings can achieve in life?
Salvation, in Naturalism, consists of achieving the highest personal fulfillment possible in life. After all, this life is all there is.
Based on these core beliefs, here are some of the implications of naturalistic philosophy as it relates to the work of PETA:
1. There is nothing special about life – is it simply a product of impersonal evolutionary forces in nature. Animal and human life are of equal value in an ultimate sense. Since all life forms necessarily evolved by the same natural process, no life form, including human, is any more valuable or important than any other. Or, put another way, all life forms, including non-human animals and insects, are as valuable as humans.
2. Since no life form has any kind of special value, treating non-human animals as special, or killing them “humanely,” is simply an a-moral human choice. Of course, there is nothing to back up that belief beyond the personal opinion of those who are making the decisions.
3. The only real reason for advocating for the life of animals is to promote the survival of the species; and the only reason to do that is because what exists in the world is all there is. Naturalists acknowledge no objective reason beyond that.
So, What Should We Think?
While PETA does not have a formal doctrinal statement that spells out its worldview beliefs, we can easily deduce them based on what they do share. They consider all animal life (human and other) as completely equal. The foundation for this understanding is that there is no God in existence to make any creature more special than another. Their advocacy for animals is based simply on a moral value that they arbitrarily decided to follow based on their belief that non-human animal life is as valuable as the life of human beings.
But PETA’s beliefs simply do not hold up. They fall prey to the same problems that exist in all naturalistic belief systems. Most Naturalists insist that naturalistic proofs are required to demonstrate that a faith system is true, and that religious systems are simply not able to give any evidence that they are true. The only problem with that argument is that their own beliefs represent a belief system, and they cannot provide the kind of evidence they require for others to back up their own beliefs. Naturalism, of every type, falls apart on this point.
Reality is simply not structured the way Naturalists assert. God actually does exist, and he has revealed himself and his ways. This truth is absolutely known by all those who open themselves up and enter into a personal relationship with him.
© 2017 Freddy Davis