One of the biggest—yet little known—agenda items of the animal rights movement is what is known as animal standing, that is, granting animals the right to bring lawsuits (discussed in detail in my book and in this article on NRO). (Of course, the real litigants would be animal rights and environmental extremists looking to shut down human enterprise and animal industries in support of their ideology.) Animal standing isn’t limited to the fringe: Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s regulations czar, and famed Harvard law professor, Laurence Tribe, are just two of the big names supporting granting animals the right to sue.
Radical animal and environmental activist lawyers keep filing lawsuits in the names of animals, so for without success. But there is no reason for them to stop: There is no downside. Bringers of these cases are never punished or sanctioned, and moreover, the activists know that all they need is one court ruling in their favor to breach the dikes, and these days, anything is possible in court.
The latest animal standing case, now pending, seeks a ruling that would grant a seal sea lion the right to sue. From the column by Christopher Stone, who claims to “represent” the seal:
It is not uncommon for a law professor to have a client on death row. Mine is a sea lion. He goes by C657, an identity branded into his flesh by the Army Corps of Engineers. C657 got onto the wrong side of the law by, allegedly, eating salmon at the base of the Bonneville Dam spillway in the Pacific Northwest. That, the National Marine Fisheries Service says, is a federal offense, punishable by rifle fire. We lost in the lower court, which ruled that sea lions had no standing. His case is before an Oregon appeals court. C657’s case involves much more than the fate of a single sea lion, and not merely because six similarly situated sea lions were shot in March when a stay of execution expired. The larger principle is the right of nonhumans to sue in their own names, with lawyers as their guardians. I believe the facts of C657’s case illustrate the merits of permitting some such suits.
The words we use matter. The seals weren’t “executed.” Execution under the rule of law is performed as punishment for a crime. The seals seal lions did not commit a crime, and indeed are incapable of such because they are amoral. They were destroyed—that’s the proper term—to save the salmon run as part of ecological management. To state otherwise is to try to turn seals sea lions into persons and the equivalent of humans. Of course, that’s the reason Stone used the term.
Stone next tries to downplay the importance of the whole thing by stating that lawsuits brought by animals and nature—which he also supports—will rarely happen, so no big deal:
Granted, the idea of rights for nature invites many objections. Among them I would not the include that: The courts, besieged on every hand. Will crowd with suits by chunks of land. Lawyers value their time, and brooks have shallow pockets. Lawsuits on behalf of nonhumans are therefore unlikely to be frivolous.
Who is he kidding? HSUS has more than $200 million in assets and is chewing at the bit (pardon the pun) to bring animal lawsuits. PETA is rolling in dough. Rich bank rollers like Paul McCartney will happily donate to animal lawsuits. Such suits could quickly become an easy way of raising big money from regular donors and could become a racket with animal industries paying protection settlement money to keep out of court. Then there is the pro bono bar at the big corporate firms that induce liberal young lawyers to work for big corporations, in part by agreeing to let them assuage their consciences by bringing “cause” lawsuits. No, with more than 100 law schools churning out lawyers trained in animal law, there would be an atomic explosion of such cases, and with, it the destruction of many animal industries.
But the real purpose of the suit isn’t just to save the seal sea lion, but to destroy human exceptionalism. Stone concludes:
C657 (currently reprieved in a Texas aquarium) wants his day in court. More than that, C657 wants to contest humankind’s self-appointed place atop the planet.
Please. C657 wants to do no such things. It is oblivious. No, Christopher Stone wants his ilk wish to “contest humankind’s self-appointed place atop the planet.” The seal sea lion is just the necessary prop to achieving that desired end.
When you think about it, this is all very odd. We dominate all other life forms. We manage species and environments. We are unquestionably atop the planet, to the point we are accused by the radical environmentalist crowd that we must sacrifice ourselves to save the planet from ourselves.
Stone may wish to pretend otherwise, but in his very attempt to destroy human exceptionalism, ironically, he is engaging in it. By urging self sacrifice for the sake of other species as a moral imperative, he seeks to force us to adopt a radical forbearance of which humans are uniquely capable. I mean our salmon industry is in real trouble, and one cause is the sea lions that eat countless millions of the fish before we can catch them. If we were like other species, we would try to kill our competitors or drive them away. But we protect them. Name one other known creature in the known universe that has ever done that but us.