Has the Obama Administration Gone to the Dogs?
April 9, 2009 • 11:05AM

Cass R Sunstein, nominee for OMB regulation czar, and mooted to be on track for the Supreme Court, published "The Rights of Animals, A Very Short Primer" as a companion essay to a book on the same subject.

He starts his essay quoting Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill on animal rights. He quotes Bentham: "The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which should never have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. A full grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as more conversable animal than an infant of a day, or a week or even a month.... The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?" John Stuart Mill concurred, Sunstein says, raising the analogy to slavery.

Sunstein then goes through a legalistic "area by area" survey from the "status quo" position of preventing animal suffering, to "quite radical suggestions" as to whether to stop animal suffering people can be prevailed upon, like himself, to stop eating meat, and, he says "the most vigorous debate of all" should animals have the rights of self determination or a certain kind of autonomy.

Sunstein hinges his argument on the matter in which he believes there is a consensus; stopping the suffering of animals. As he builds his argument he says: "Bentham was right to place the emphasis on whether and to what extent the animal in question is capable of suffering. If rats are able to suffer — and no one really doubts that they are—, then their interests are relevant to the question of how, and perhaps whether, they can be expelled from houses."

He concludes the primer: "I believe that in the long run our willingness to subject animals to unjust suffering will be seen as a form of unconscionable barbarity — not the same as, but in many ways morally akin to slavery and mass extermination of human beings."