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Katie van Schaijik

Privacy for animals

May. 1, 2010, at 6:26pm

We have reached the reductio ad absurdum of rights proliferation.  Discovery News now features an earnest article titled, “Do Nature Films Deny Animals Their Right to Privacy.” (Hat tip Mark Steyn, in the Corner.)

Imagine if a film crew, without your permission, stormed into your home and filmed you in your most private moments. Makers of wildlife documentaries do just that to non-human animals, and are denying these animals their right to privacy, according to new research published in the current issue of Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies.

But, shouldn’t we consider what grounds my concern with privacy?  Isn’t it precisely the personal subjectivity, the interior existential plenitude, the self-possession and individual moral agency that characterizes all human beings but which animals plainly lack?

Dr Mills said, “It might at first seem odd to claim that animals might have a right to privacy. Privacy, as it is commonly understood, is a culturally human concept. The key idea is to think about animals in terms of the public/private distinction. We can never really know if animals are giving consent, but they often do engage in forms of behavior which suggest they’d rather not encounter humans, and we might want to think about equating this with a desire for privacy.”

Couldn’t we just consider it a natural preference for quiet and safety?  Seems to me an appeal human decency and kindliness toward creatures in the wild should suffice for promoting more humane filming practices.

We can’t extend human rights to animals without completely vacating the meaning the of the term.


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