Friday, February 6, 2009

The Rights of our Companion Fur Children

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a "human rights" treaty that is instilling a lot of fear in American parents. As it stands today, the USA is one of the few remaining countries that has not signed this treaty.

According to the group, among the draconian impositions of the treaty

"The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision."
Now, why should you, the average pet owner companion animal guardian care? (Aside from how our own relationship with our children might be affected of course.)

Once upon a time we were pet owners. We made decisions about our pets that best benefited our relationship with them. We decided what to feed them, how to medicate them, whether we should amputate some part of them (testicles, ovaries, claws, ears, tail...) and eventually whether their suffering out weighed their quality of life. We made those decisions with complete autonomy.

Those days are changing, and they're changing one word at a time.

The group "In Defense of Animals" puts out a lesson book geared toward 2nd and 3rd graders. The booklet is titled "Guardians for Life". The lesson aims to teach a clear separation between being and animal "owner" and being an animal "guardian".
Sometimes we say that we own our animals, but it’s better to say that we care for them.

We can own toys. We can own books. We can own all kinds of things. But animals are
living beings, not things. We don’t own our friends, so we shouldn’t own other living
beings, either. After all, our animals are a part of our family, and we are their guardians.
The parents are kindly let in on the reason:
Today, your son or daughter was encouraged to be a guardian to animals and to younger children who depend on them.

The equation of pets with brothers and sisters. "Animals are part of our family" is a repetition of a phrase that is VERY commonly used even amongst the most obdurate of meat-eating hunters. The attachment people feel for their pets has not gone unnoticed amongst the petatics who are trying to liberate animals.
Merely changing this one word ["owner" to "guardian"] does not change the legal status of animals, but it does begin to reflect modern views and differentiate your dog from your kitchen table. -

Our friend Cass Sunstein writes in "The Rights of Animals: A Very Short Primer":
Almost everyone believes in animal rights, at least in some minimal sense; the real question is what that phrase actually means.
Of course any animals would be represented by human beings, just like any other litigant who lacks ordinary (human) competence; for example, the interests of children are protected by prosecutors, and also by trustees and guardians in private litigation brought on children’s behalf.

Hence some people urge that certain animals, at least, are “persons,” not property, and that they should have many of the legal rights that human beings have.26 Of course this does not mean that those animals can vote or run for office.
Their status would be akin to that of children—a status commensurate with their capacities. What that status is, particularly, remains to be spelled out.

The US will need some precedent to spell out exactly what the rights of animals and children should be, and a duly signed international United Nations governed treaty would be the perfect antecedent.

HSUS, PeTa and the AKC would be perfectly placed to provide "social workers" for every pet owner animal guardian family.

The terms "Companion Animals" and "Animal Guardians" are already prevalent in our society. They are in a large sense symptomatic of an ongoing erosion of our property rights. But is the transition to child-like animal rights also a mainstream position, or one still lingering in the fringes with the Petatics?

Cass Sunstein, in the paper linked above, gave us this -
Every reasonable person believes in animal rights. Even the sharpest critics of animal rights support the anticruelty laws.

For Cass, this statement is the mainstream launching pad from which these other animal rights will burst forth. Is our Regulation Czar the lunatic fringe?

Or is your humble libertarian author the lunatic fringe? A perfect libertarian society would not have anti-cruelty laws, rather economic pressures of society and the trials by jury would influence behaviour.

Many people are skeptical of the possible success of such an approach, but ironically, Cass Sunstein is not (see the linked paper). He does, however, need the existence of animal cruelty laws as a foundation to build up to child-like rights.


  1. It should be noted that only two United Nations member countries have not signed the UN Rights of the Child treaty - the United States, and Somalia.

    On a humorous note, over at the Terrierman site, (in the comments) Mr. Burns suggested two countries that a libertarian might like to go live in, neither were the USA or Somalia. Both of his suggestions (Sudan and Yemen) have signed this treaty.

    Any chance that Mr. Burns' generous offer here might include the USA or Somalia?

  2. "A leader in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has declared that the breakdown of traditional families, far from being a “crisis,” is actually a triumph for human rights.

    Speaking at a colloquium held last month at Colegio Mexico in Mexico City, UNFPA representative Arie Hoekman denounced the idea that high rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births represent a social crisis, claiming that they represent instead the triumph of “human rights” against “patriarchy.”"