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I, too, am disappointed by Ehrenreich's lack of consideration for the valid question: Why are nonhuman animals property rather than beings permitted to live their natural lives, just as human animals are?

To educate Ehrenreich, purchasing cage-free eggs is not animal rights activism at all. Cage-free eggs are purchased by animal welfare advocates, and there's a big difference. Animal rights activists believe that it is precisely the property status of nonhuman animals that positions us to do enslave them and cause them a life of pain and a death at our whim. For the animal rights activist, there's no such thing as "humane slaughter," and slaughter is how most institutionalized interactions between human and nonhuman animals end.

Though it is interesting how alike we and some primates are, the only point of likeness that matters is that we have the same capacity for pleasure and pain, and the same interest in living our lives free of being the property of another. That's the only right animal rights people are referring to: the right to not be the property of another.

Ms. Ehrenreich, when such a fundamental question of justice is involved, how could you (of all people) use it as a platform for a stand-up routine?

Mary Martin, Ph.D.

Jupiter, FL

May 18 2007 - 7:35am

Web Letter

I'm so disappointed that such an intelligent writer as Ms. Ehrenreich and such a justice-oriented publication as The Nation predictably do what every other form of media does when faced with a story that concerns the welfare of non-human animals: use it as a platform for wisecracks and sarcasm.

Whether you call it biodiversity or (as I would) the right of all sentient beings not to be locked away in cages (for slaughter, experimentation or amusement), this is serious business. We're facing the utter END of many of our fellow earthlings--a universal crime against "biodiversity" if you will--including chimpanzees.

Much of what I do for a living is write comedy. And yet as an actively compassionate person (something that took my years to achieve growing up in a McUnited States of Kentucky Fried Wisecracking Unconsciousness), I no longer find much fodder for humor in stories about near-extinct and/or enslaved species whose extant members face all manner of cruelty and barbarism at human hands.

And animal sanctuaries, of the sort that make it possible for beings like Hiasl to live a relatively unfettered life outside the horrors of a laboratory or zoo, should be supported as much as any other kind of social justice movement.

Whether animals become the butt of jokes or springboard of jokey musings (as they have in this case), it just results in demeaning something that should be given more gravitas, not less.

I realize that in this piece, there's an attempt to satirize human behavior, and yet, still, it reduces an issue of justice--the right of personhood for a primate--to a mere "setup" for an extended series of jokes.

Ms. Ehrenreich could expend her enormous brainpower (and The Nation's pages) to lend support to Hiasl's noble effort, to save not only himself but his species.

Instead, she has cloned the same kind of pointless humor and easy sarcasm that quite literally is helping to ensure that these animals don't stand a chance. Every time we make them the butt or springboard of jokes, we divert attention from the simple fact that they, in and of themselves, matter and are worthy of thoughtful consideration.

If we continue to treat nonhuman animals as one big joke, there will soon come a day when they simply are no more.

As Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan once wrote, in our utter neglect and destruction of the wondrous diversity of life on the planet, we humans have been "faithless heirs." So, I find, that terrifyingly, as an awkwardly large percentage of literally all life on the planet comes to end (in the space of mere lifetimes), there is nothing funny about this situation.

The case of Hiasl is stunningly relevant, and serious of its own accord, don't you think? I mean, wow: fighting for the right of a species to be treated as something more than a laboratory specimen number or a piece of property. This kind of "evolution" in our relationship to other life forms could ultimately save not only chimpanzees, but all life.

Indeed, if one has an iota of reverence for life and another iota of compassion for the suffering of innocent, speechless, rightless sentient beings, then it really is a situation that makes nonhuman-targeted humor seem, to me, a lot like a banal form of violence.

Christopher Barden

San Mateo, CA

May 15 2007 - 11:46am

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