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ARE HUMANS THE ONLY VICTIMS OF SLAVERY, ABUSE, AND TRAFFICKING? The Myopia of ‘Human Exceptionalism’

In a short comment on Culture & Ethics, Discovery Institute’s Wesley J. Smith applauded Donald Trump for declaring January 2018 as “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.” Trump’s decree reads in part as follows:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 2018 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, culminating in the annual celebration of National Freedom Day on February 1, 2018.  I call upon industry associations, law enforcement, private businesses, faith-based and other organizations of civil society, schools, families, and all Americans to recognize our vital roles in ending all forms of modern slavery and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities aimed at ending and preventing all forms of human trafficking.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-...

Wesley Smith comments as follows: 

“Human exceptionalism holds that every one of us is inherently equal, in moral value, and properly, under the law. Or to put it another way, no human being should ever be treated as an object, only and always as a subject. Which is why slavery and human trafficking are intrinsic evils that we should strive to eradicate from the face of the earth. But that won’t be done so long as we pay scant attention to the continuing crisis of human bondage in the modern world. So, I applaud the declaration of January 2018 as, “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.”

Smith ends his post by writing, “Let us hope that this isn’t all decree and no further action. But calling attention to the crisis is most welcome. This is an evil that stains the world.”

https://evolutionnews.org/2018/01/a-new-year-and-a-new-commitment-t...

I applaud President Trump’s declaration, and I agree with Smith’s response to it. However, I wonder why Smith, who claims to be a Christian ethicist, does not extend his concern about bondage and trafficking to the rest of God’s creatures, who are obviously able to suffer the same abuse or demise. In short, as a Christian ethicist I would revise Smith’s response to read as follows:

“No SENTIENT CREATURE should ever be treated as an object, only and always as a subject. Which is why slavery and ANIMAL trafficking are intrinsic evils that we should strive to eradicate from the face of the earth. But that won’t be done so long as we pay scant attention to the continuing crisis of ANIMAL bondage in the modern world.”

The needless enslavement or slaughter of bears, tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, whales, sharks, etc.—and the trafficking of their parts for sale or alleged medicinal purposes—is also “an evil that stains the world.” Yet the plight of non-human animals, which is global in scale, appears nowhere on Wesley Smith’s ethical radar screen. 

It is evident from Wesley Smith’s alarmist writings elsewhere that he thinks respect for “the dignity of human life” doesn’t merely trump respect for animals, but that ‘valuing animals entails devaluing humans.’ Notwithstanding radical views, this is clearly a non sequitur (for which Smith should know better) and the Achilles heel of “human exceptionalism.”

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Comment by Paul Hansen on January 25, 2018 at 9:40

Alfredo, thanks for your comment. You are correct: Human exploitation of animals is indeed PARASITIC—although I would stop short of calling it “psychopathic.” I think is it more accurate to say that most people fail to see the moral DISCONNECT (inconsistency) between claiming to “love animals” while devouring them, wearing their skins, buying & selling them, enslaving them, and using them for experimentation or amusement. Thanks to animal activist groups and media exposure, there seems to be an increasing public awareness of such abuses, but cultural change is a slow process.

Comment by Alfredo Kuba on January 25, 2018 at 2:40

Indeed human behavior towards all other species and even its own is full of prejudices and biases, but more prevalent and amplified are these towards other living, feeling, sentient beings. Human supremacist behavior towards other species is the most racist/speciesist behavior were might is right is accepted as the "norm" prefered. This is even more notable on humans who contend they "love" animals, while devouring them, wearing their skins, buying and even supporting experiments on animals and enslaving them for their own selfish amusement or hard labor. Human behavior towards those who are different from the human species conforms to the behavior of psychopaths and parasite.      

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