AR-FAQ - #04

#04 Isn't AR hypocritical, e.g., because you don't give rights to insects or plants?

The general hypocrisy argument appears in many forms. A typical form is as follows:

"It is hypocritical to assert rights for a cow but not for a plant; therefore, cows cannot have rights."

Arguments of this type are frequently used against AR. Not much analysis is required to see that they carry little weight. First, one can assert an hypothesis A that would carry as a corollary hypothesis B. If one then fails to assert B, one is hypocritical, but this does not necessarily make A false. Certainly, to assert A and not B would call into question one's credibility, but it entails nothing about the validity of A. Second, the factual assertion of hypocrisy is often unwarranted. In the above example, there are grounds for distinguishing between cows and plants (plants do not have a central nervous system), so the charge of hypocrisy is unjustified. One may disagree with the criteria, but assertion of such criteria nullifies the charge of hypocrisy. Finally, the charge of hypocrisy can be reduced in most cases to simple speciesism. For example, the quote above can be recast as:

"It is hypocritical to assert rights for a human but not for a plant; therefore, humans cannot have rights."

To escape from this reductio ad absurdum of the first quote, one must produce a crucial relevant difference between cows and humans, in other words, one must justify the speciesist assignment of rights to humans but not to cows. (In question #24, we apply a similar reduction to the charge of hypocrisy related to abortion. For questions dealing specifically with insects and plants, refer to questions #39 through #46.) Finally, we must ask ourselves who the real hypocrites are. The following quotation from Michael W. Fox describes the grossly hypocritical treatment of exploited versus companion animals. DG

Farm animals can be kept five to a cage two feet square, tied up constantly by a two-foot-long tether, castrated without anesthesia, or branded with a hot iron. A pet owner would be no less than prosecuted for treating a companion animal in such a manner; an American president was, in fact, morally censured merely for pulling the ears of his two beagles. Michael W. Fox (Vice President of HSUS)

SEE ALSO: #24, #39-#46