The “rights of nature” movement is not a benign attempt to improve environmental practices. Rather, it seeks to overthrow human exceptionalism and elevate animals – and even geological features – as rights-holding beings or entities.
Ecuador instituted the rights of nature in its constitution. Today, the region’s highest court ruled that making a wild monkey a pet 18 years ago – before nature had any rights in Ecuador – violated ape rights. Of Climate News narrative (emphasis mine):
Wild animals, the court said, generally have the right “not to be hunted, fished, captured, collected, extracted, kept, retained, trafficked, marketed or exchanged” and the right to “the free development of their animal behavior, which includes the guarantee of not being domesticated and not being forced to assimilate human characteristics or appearances.”
These rights emanate from the innate and individual value of animals, not because they are useful to human beings, the court said. This distinction is important because courts have generally interpreted nature rights laws as applying to entire ecosystems, made up of many animals and inanimate aspects of the biosphere such as rivers and forests.
Viruses and bacteria matter too
In other words, the rights of nature apply to individual animals. And, one would assume, to be consistent, for individual plants, insects, the water, and (what the heck) germs too. Why not? Viruses and bacteria are part of nature, after all.
Incidentally, the Swiss Constitution already recognizes the dignity of individual plants. New York’s highest court will soon rule on whether a the elephant is a non-human person right to a writ of habeas corpus.
And if it continues?
If current trends continue, humanity will suffer self-inflicted and catastrophic damage. What if fish from the sea, for example, had the right not to be caught and eaten by us? (Seals will be free to continue eating them.) What if deer had the right not to be hunted?
And what would prevent these same rights from being extended to domestic animals? The Ecuadorian court refused to go there. But why not, once you accept the premise that animals and nature are also people?
We live in an upside down world. Anyone who says, “It can’t happen here,” is living in a dream. The time is now – not later – to stop rolling your eyes and prevent this movement before it gains more traction. For starters, Congress and every state should pass laws stating that no animal or element of nature has rights or legal status in court.
If we continue to refuse to take this movement as seriously as its proponents do, don’t say I didn’t warn you when the hammer fell.