The Chicken or the Human?
Contrary to the opinions of too many people on this campus, the most important issue at Notre Dame is not the current record of our football team, or the job status of its head coach. I love the football team as much as anyone, but we have to think big picture. (That would be outside the campus — and I mean further than the Linebacker.)
Charles Rice's column on Friday mentioned something that could affect not just Coach Davie or the football team, but every person involved with this university and, indeed, on the entire planet.
Rice criticized the University for what he feels is a 20-year trend of sacrificing its moral fiber for secular prestige. He used the example of many secularly prestigious institutions of higher learning offering courses on animal rights. Now, "animal rights" sounds like a harmless issue. After all, who could possibly be against animals? But the sort of "animal rights" Rice articulates about is pure lunacy.
Rice discusses a statement from Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that asserts that Americans eating chicken is somehow a larger atrocity than the wholesale slaughter of the Holocaust: "Six million people died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses." PETA also plans to picket McDonald's beginning Oct. 16. Among their complaints are that chickens raised for food at Mickey D's should have better transportation because "every year, millions suffer broken bones and millions more die from the heat or cold." Heaven forbid chickens should suffer or die before they're killed and become chicken salad.
Now, let me be logical. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT CHICKENS! Even if there are six billion chickens, they're still chickens! When the chickens complain, I'll listen. It could be entirely possible that the cure for AIDS or cancer died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz or one of the other Holocaust hells. The most six billion chickens could ever account for is about 60 billion Chicken McNuggets. Anyone who could possibly equate the two acts has a severe case of mixed-up priorities.
Rice also details the insane philosophy of Peter Singer, who is now a chair of bioethics at Princeton. In Singer's twisted world, apes, bears, cats, possibly chickens, chimps, dogs, dolphins, pigs, seals and whales are all on a level with humans because they are rational and sentient beings. Does anyone else see a fundamental dichotomy here?
If not, let's use a small sample: My dog and myself. In the last two weeks, I have studied the philosophies of Rene Descartes, David Hume and Sir Francis Bacon. Over that same period of time, my dog tried to bite the mailman. Recently, I have tried to control my weight by eating and drinking healthy foods. My dog likes to eat newspapers and drink out of the toilet bowl. I READ and WRITE. My dog poops on the carpet. Intellectual winner: me. The mere fact that I can determine it proves it.
But Singer's not through yet. Those species listed are not only on a level with humans, but newborn and unborn babies are not. Perhaps Singer's actually on to something here. If I get home and discover that my dog left a little present on the floor again and I decide that the proper punishment is sticking scissors in his neck, opening them, stuffing the business end of a Shop-Vac in the space I've created, and then sucking his brains out, it's called cruelty, and I'll spend the next few years of my life avoiding a different kind of animal in an orange jumpsuit. But if I arranged to do the same thing to an unborn baby, it's called a woman's right to choose, and I'll spend $300.
There's a reason why I bring all of this up. Ingrid Newkirk, PETA, and Singer, whether they intend to or not, have delegated some humans to second-class citizens. The rest of us are not far behind. In fact, Newkirk already thinks so by stating that the deaths of six billion chickens outweigh the deaths of six million humans.
Charles Rice uses examples such as these to illustrate the wrong path for Notre Dame to take towards prestige in the academic community. I think he has it backwards.
We need to think big picture. What path are we as humanity taking when people who believe that "killing, say, a chimpanzee, is worse than the killing of a gravely defective human who is not a person"? That's something to think about while you eat a sausage and boo Bob Davie on Saturday.
Mike Marchand is a junior off-campus English major who never poops on the carpet ... well, except for that one time. His column appears every other Monday and his e-mail address is Marchand.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, September 27, 1999