Norm Phelps Reviews Joan Dunayer’s Speciesism

The Fund for Animals’ Norm Phelps recently reviewed Joan Dunayer’s latest missive, Speciesism. Speciesism, like all of Dunayer’s animal rights work, is strictly abolitionist with little room for dissent. Phelps doesn’t have a problem with Dunayers’ abolitionist arguments, but rather disagrees with Dunayer on how to get there.

So, for example, Phelps describes the following excerpt by Dunayer as “an intellectually consistent ethic of moral equality for all sentient beings”,

Sentience, defined as any capacity to experience, is the only logical and fair basis for rights. In nonspeciesist philosophy, all sentient beings have rights. What’s more, all sentient beings are equal. Any needless harm to nonhumans should be viewed with the same disapproval as comparable harm to humans. Am I saying that a firefly is as fully entitled to moral consideration as a rabbit or bonobo? Yes. Am I saying that a spider has as much right to life as an egret or a human? Yes. I see no logically consistent reason to say otherwise.

Phelps has no problem with this insane logic, but he cannot quite stomach the way Dunayer wants to put it in practice. As he puts it, “Unfortunately, what is elegant in theory can become hopelessly tangled upon contact with reality.”

That reality includes Dunayer’s attack on animal rights groups including United Poultry Concerns, Compassion Over Killing, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In her book, Dunayer writes,

If I were in a Nazi concentration camp, and someone on the outside asked me, “Do you want me to work for better living conditions, more humane deaths in the gas chambers, or the liberation of all concentration camps?” I’d answer “Liberation.” I’d regard any focus on better living conditions and more “humane” deaths as immoral.

They just can’t resist the Nazi comparisons at this point. Godwin’s Law is alive and well with the animal rights movement.

But Phelps disagrees,

It is this two-pronged approach — with its simultaneous, and not entirely consistent, emphases on both liberation and reform — that is critical to success in the real world in which animals are suffering and being killed. Dunayer’s Nazi concentration camp illustration is based on the unstated assumption that animal liberation can be achieved within a fairly near time frame. But since it clearly cannot be, refusing to work for better living conditions and less painful and terrifying deaths amounts to a betrayal of the animals whom we are professing to help. We must resist the temptation to sacrifice real-world results on the altar of an ivory-tower consistency because what we are really sacrificing is animals.

Someday, maybe, they’ll be able to treat spiders and humans as morally equal, but for now they need to concentrate on more humane slaughter methods. And if Phelps doesn’t think animal liberation is right around the corner, why does The Fund for Animals keep issuing press releases saying things like it is the beginning of the end for hunting?

Its kind of amusing to see Phelps then turn to a critique of Dunayer which is a pretty good indictment of the entire animal rights movement,

Like religious fundamentalists, Joan Dunayer believes that she has found the only path to salvation and that all who do not agree with her are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And in fact, her faith that rigid adherence to logically consistent theory is the sole route to liberation has something of the aura of religious zealotry about it. And like fundamentalists religion, her faith is not empirically based. There is absolutely no evidence to support Dunayer’s claim that working for “welfarist” reforms retards liberation. Historically, the notion that the road to social change lies in strict submission to an elegant orthodoxy has always led, not to the utopia that was promised, but to failure, disaster, or both.

Come on, Norm — religious-like zealotry? Adherence to bizarrely impossible ideals? Holier than thou attitudes? Don’t pretend as if Dunayer has a monopoly on those traits; they’re pervasive in the animal rights movement.

Again, people used to e-mail me complaining that I was distorting animal rights activists by suggesting they might grant rights even to insects, but Dunayer says spiders and humans are morally equal and the best Phelps can muster is that its a great ideal that is nonetheless impractical for now.


Trying to Walk Before We Can Crawl. Norm Phelps, Satya, January 2005.

Fund for Animals: The Bible Condemns Hunting

In September, the Fund for Animals called on the Special Youth Challenge Ministries of Dallas, Georgia, to end its sponsorship of hunting trips for terminally ill and disabled children.

According to its website, the Special Youth Challenge Ministries,

. . . is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), national volunteer ministry to reach people for Jesus Christ through Christian lifestyle witnessing by teaching physically challenged youth ages 13 ? 19 how to overcome some of the obstacles of shooting and hunting through special training and events.

The Fund for Animals spiritual outreach director Norm Phelps, however, claimed in a press release that the Bible specifically condemns hunting. Phelps said,

Killing animals for sport is a form of animal abuse that teaches cruelty instead of love and mercy, is contrary to the gospel of Christ, and is condemned by the Bible.

The press release went on to provide the following justification for those statements,

Phelps, the author of Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible (Lantern Books, 2002), pointed out that while hunting is never mentioned in the New Testament, Jesus taught kindness to animals on several occasions. Noting that people are prosecuted for doing to dogs and cats what hunters do to deer and geese, Phelps called hunting “legalized cruelty to animals.” In the Old Testament, Genesis describes Esau as “a skilled hunter” and his twin brother Jacob as “a peaceful man” who did not hunt. (Gen. 25:27) The prophet Malachi says that God “hated Esau and loved Jacob.” (Malachi 1:2-3) According to Phelps, “The condemnation of hunting could not be clearer or more vehement.”

But, of course, neither in Malachi nor elsewhere in the Bible does it say that God hated Esau because he was a hunter. Rather, God seems to have hated Esau because he sold his birthright and failed to repent (Hebrews 12:16-17: “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”)

The only thing clear and vehement here seems to be Phelps’ distortion of the Biblical text.


The Fund for Animals Calls For An End To “Sick” Hunts. Press Release, The Fund for Animals, September 9, 2003.

Lets Help the Activists Burn Out More Quickly

Karen Davis, the founder and president of United Poultry Concerns, recently penned a long whine about how easily animal rights activists become burned out. There are some worthwhile lessons to be learned here.

According to Davis, “It’s easy for an animal activist to become consumed by rage and despair, to grow exhausted and burn out confronted with the horror, each and every day, of our species’ relentless assault on other species.”

Especially when you’re not getting anywhere. Davis quotes Norman Phelps of The Fund for Animals as telling her that he started campaigning against hunting in the mid-1980s thinking it would be outlawed within the decade, and here he still is fighting to get it banned. Closer to home for Davis, she notes that UPC and others managed to stop a popular pigeon shoot, but simultaneously the number of chickens killed in the United States has increased by 10 million a day since her involvement with the animal rights movement began.

Davis herself seems doubtful that the animal rights movement will achieve any real long-term success, writing, “My attitude is not ‘If I didn’t think we’d win, I’d quit,’ to which I would say, ‘Then quit.'”

Davis identifies three reasons that cause animal rights activists to give up the fight,

…the endless omnipresence of animal suffering caused by humans, public resistance to our message, and letdown by other activists. We start out full of energy, we picture victory and a crowd of protesters at every demonstration, we envision reason and compassion taking charge of people’s lives, and then reality erodes our dream.

These are all situations, of course that those of us opposed to the animal rights movement should do our best to encourage.


How does one survive dealing day after day with a cruel industry?. Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns, Summer 2001.

Fund for Animals lectures Dalai Lama about peace

People with only a passing
familiarity with the Dalai Lama — the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner — might
assume the religious leader to be a vegetarian. In fact not only does
the Dalai Lama eat meat, but recently he has told reporters he approves
of some medical experiments on animals. Sounds a lot like the animal welfare
position espoused by this site.

Well, of course, it annoys
animal rights activists to no end to have the world’s best known preacher
of peace not in their camp. On August 5, 1998 The Fund for Animals released
a letter it sent to the Dalai Lama urging him to issue a statement affirming that
“Buddhism’s compassionate opposition to all forms of animal abuse,
including the genetic manipulation of living beings and the use of animals
in scientific research.”

According to the letter, authored
by The Fund for Animals coordinator Norm Phelps, “By refusing to
make your [the Dalai Lama’s] body a coffin for slaughtered animals, you
can only enhance your work for world peace.” The letter does not explain how going vegetarian will convince the Chinese to withdraw from

No word yet on what the Dalai
Lama thought of the letter. Could it be that the Dalai Lama values the
life of a breast cancer victim over the life of a lab rat?


Animal advocates tell Dalai Lama that ‘peace begins in the kitchen. The Fund for Animals, Press Release, August 5, 1998.