Animal wrongs

In response to Judi Hewitt in last week's NS (Letters, 10 March), concerning "the rights of our fellow creatures", I am sorry to have to tell her that, much as animal-lovers might like to believe otherwise, no - animals do not have rights. Of course, they possess the ability to suffer, as well as to inflict suffering on animals weaker than themselves. However, rights spring not from suffering, nor even the power to inflict harm, but from the ability to enforce demands. Human beings indeed have rights, but only where they enjoy the ability to extract and enforce them.

Yes, some humans may use their ability to voice their protest at the way animals or deprived humans are treated, and may even succeed in securing special consideration for them - but that is a human exercise of rights.

As for Hewitt's claim that animals have "the right to live their lives as nature intended", until "nature" decides to inform us herself of her (alleged) intentions, I would suggest that, as with the dinosaur and other extinct species, "nature" is quite content to hold the ring and allow all contenders to slug it out, awarding victory to the strongest and wiliest or best adapted - or the most fortunate.

Gaia is a fickle goddess!

Albert Adler

London N4

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This article first appeared in the 17 March 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Iraq: the war that changed us