COLUMN RIGHT : Eat Animals! It’s for Their Own Good : There is no better way of protecting the habitat of a species than by systematically hunting it.

Roger Scruton is editor of the Salisbury Review, a conservative magazine in London.

Animals, like people, can be nice or nasty. Nice animals do not bite or kick; you can stroke them, gurgle at them and ride them; they even become adept at simulating human affection, enabling unloved people to experience fantasies of love.

Nasty animals do not bite and kick continuously. They often brood about their captive state, until the day comes for revenge. The pit bull terrier, for instance, will behave impeccably for years before suddenly killing his keeper, an outcome that may be welcomed by everyone else. Unfortunately he will usually try to kill everyone else as well.

How should we deal with nasty animals? The British Parliament has decided that certain breeds of dog--the pit bull being one--should be either shot or neutered. This has led to protests from the owners, many of whom worked long and hard to obtain a pet whose temperament matched their own. Some pit bull owners, notwithstanding their contempt for the human species, have even decided to vote Socialist in the next election. Meanwhile, the Labor Party has included “animal rights” in its electoral program, following its policy of looking for support among freaks and fanatics, in the hope that, after 20 years of Socialist education policy, freaks and fanatics now outnumber men of common sense.


Add to the question of dangerous dogs those of hunting, whaling, zoos, vivisection, factory farming, pest control and the ecosphere, and you will see that henceforth animals are going to be high on the political agenda. It is, therefore, time to lay down some principles for dealing with them.

-- First principle: Animals have no rights. Humans have rights because we are rational beings, who exist by negotiation and by the reciprocal recognition of duties. A creature that cannot recognize the rights of others cannot claim rights for itself. Only if animals had duties, therefore, would they also have rights. But it would then be wrong to capture them, kill them, eat them; to keep them as pets, to train them to stand on their hind legs, or to make use of them in any way.

A dog has neither rights nor duties, but his owner has both. Don’t punish the dog, therefore, but the owner. Make him liable by law for the damage done by his pet; the cost of insuring a pit bull will then rapidly lead to the extinction of the breed.

-- Second principle : We are now stewards of the animal kingdom. Henceforth no species exists without our permission. We therefore have some difficult choices to make. Favor shown to the chicken is bad news for the fox, while our liking for horses and cows has virtually abolished the lion.

-- Third principle : We can provide for the animals only if we have a sufficient motive. And “we” does not mean pampered intellectuals, but rural primitives, rednecks and the kind of person who would like to keep a pit bull. Fortunately, the motive exists. There is no better way of protecting the habitat of a species than by systematically hunting it. It is angling that has saved England’s rivers from pollution, stag hunting that has preserved our native deer, fox hunting that has saved our hedgerows and shooting that has filled our meadows with pheasant and our moors with grouse. Similarly, it is big-game hunting that will save the safari parks of Africa and whaling that will save the whale. Elephants may be threatened by ivory poachers, but not so much as they would benefit from ivory farmers, who would have an interest in protecting them. As it is, however, the shortsighted ban on the trade in ivory will probably lead to the extinction of the elephant.

-- Fourth principle : Animals that we eat have the best chance of competing for space on our planet. We therefore have a duty to eat meat--as much meat and in as many varieties as possible. Every vegetarian meal is a crime against nature.


This does not mean that we can treat animals as we will. We should give them a chance to run around, copulate, bark, neigh and roar as the spirit moves them. And when the time comes, we should choose a lenient form of death--shooting, say, or hunting with hounds, rather than the trapping and poisoning that have cast such shame on the human race. One last plea for mercy, therefore: Let us reintroduce the rat-catching terrier, which is the true friend of the rat. A rat hunt, culminating in a swift biting-off of the offending head, is much to be preferred to the slow agonies of poisoning; it is also ecologically cleaner, provides healthy entertainment for all the family and encourages sympathy for the rat--one of nature’s most unjustly despised and affectionate creatures.