Donkeys!I get a little nervous around vegetarians. They’re like people with Tourettes syndrome: you never quite know what nonsense they’re going to blurt at any given moment, and you can only hope it doesn’t happen in earshot of other people who might think you’re with them. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a number of vegetarians and with the exception of one of them they are, put mildly, a rather quirky bunch. Does the lack of meat in your diet start to screw with your mind after a while? Or is it the overdose of Quorn and soya? It can’t be the vegetables, they just make you fart.

Of course one doesn’t have to be a vegetarian to be pro-Animal Rights. My mother is a rabid meat eater but claims to love animals and supports a number of animal charities (who send her lots of literature and goodie-packs almost invariably showing pictures of cute seal cubs). I often wonder, is it a hang-up from childhood? My son is 17 months old and loves books. Most of his books are about animals, often exclusively so, and they paint a wonderfully idyllic and utopian picture of the animal world. He has a book called “Hug.” “Hug” is a picture story involving a young chimp walking around a zoo looking at all the other animals hugging each other. He gets lonely and wants a hug himself but can’t find the right species (don’t you hate it when that happens?). Finally Bobo finds the mummy chimp and they hug and then all the animals hug each other in a big group: lions, lambs, hippos, dogs, giraffes, zebras, elephants, lizards, snakes. In real life the lion would have the lamb’s ass, the hippo would be eating the snakes, the elephant would be stampeding through the trees leaving smaller animals lame or dead in its wake, the chimp would be beating the dogs with a stick, and the zookeeper would be fired for gross negligence. Animals might well be wonderful creatures, but most of them aren’t terribly nice and you wouldn’t want to bump into them on your way to the shops.

Recently, Simon Cowell – music producer, talent show presenter, and general smug bastard – was rumoured to be leaving a large cut of his fortune to donkeys. When I first heard my response was one of befuddlement, “donkeys… donkeys?…fucking donkeys?… MOTHERFUCKING DONKEYS?!?!?” I just don’t get that one, as you may have guessed. At what point does someone think “I’d really love to leave a bit of cash to a donkey charity?” Is the decision reached whilst high on acid? HEE-HAW!

Each to his own I guess; it’s his money. But there are far more insidious expressions of “Animal Rights” than helping sick donkeys and cooing over baby seals. Vegetarians can be quirky; many of those behind the Animals Rights movement are downright barmy. Enter the Animal Liberation Front – ALF. These guys really are special: Bunny Lovers par excellence. In its fight against animal testing in Oxford University they have: labelled the builders “Nazis,” harassed and threatened contractors and members of their families, threatened students, burnt a college boathouse, began a smear campaign falsely accusing executives of GlaxoSmithKline of being convicted rapists, hurled abuse at science students, and sounded foghorns outside libraries and lecture halls. Last week they caused a leading restaurant to remove foie gras from its menu. Did they use rational persuasion? Logical argument? Appeal to the emotions? Why do any of that when you can intimidate and vandalise? Throwing bricks through windows is much more fun! It must be that rather satisfying “SPLUUSSSH” sound you get. One up for the ducks!

Where are the police in all this? They simply advised the restaurant that the ALF can get violent so they’d better do as they’re told. What I want to know is why these people aren’t either in prison or straight-jackets. They’ve obviously no interest in trying to persuade people with calm considered argument. Their tactics are those of intimidation and terror. Frankly, they’re terrorists and should be treated as such. Seemingly human life doesn’t matter a damn to them. They lament “animal cruelty” and yet are engaged in some of the worst kinds of cruelty to the most advanced animals on the planet. They claim their actions are intended to bring amount the end of animal suffering, but causing suffering to the highest form of life on earth doesn’t so much as prick their conscience.

OK, so the ALF are an extreme example. The rest are much more sensible, aren’t they? Well, let’s examine PETA.

Ingrid Newkirk, head Bunny-Lover at PETA, is against animal testing. Nothing particularly surprising there, a lot of people are. But she goes much further: “[animal research] is immoral even if it’s essential,” and, “even painless research is fascism, supremacism.” When asked PETA’s position in the event of animal testing producing a cure for AIDS she replied: “we’d be against it [on moral grounds].” Since there is no other known way to defeat the disease, opposing any cure for AIDS that involves research with animals is tantamount to letting human beings die so that laboratory mice might live. So, why would PETA oppose it? Well, I’ll allow Ingrid to enlighten your blood-soaked mind: “[human beings are] the biggest blight on the face of the earth.” Ooh! I guess you wouldn’t be terribly concerned then if a whole bunch of us just died off then? Four legs good, two legs bad.

Just to flog the goat a little more, here’s a few other quotes from PETA and its associates: “I do not believe that a human being has a right to life” [yet strangely animals do], “I would rather have medical experiments done on our children than on animals” [and so with one single stroke of obnoxious ethical thought children sink beneath animals on the scale of value]. PETA cofounder Alex Pacheco reckons: “Arson, property destruction, burglary, and theft are acceptable crimes when used for the animals’ cause.” So do all terrorists, I guess. And, Michael Fox, vice president of The Humane [?] Society, believes that: “The life of an ant and that of my child should be granted equal consideration.” Which means that you either blub your eyes out for weeks when someone steps on an ant or you’re not terribly bothered when your child gets hit by a car. Either way you’re a lunatic. God help your children. Ironically an ant probably has more concern and respect for its offspring than you seem to have for yours.

OK, aren’t there any sensible Animal Rights groups out there? Let’s take Andrew Tyler of Animal Aid. He brutally mauled a chef in a debate about foie gras about 18 months ago. At one stage he accused the chef of being morally degenerate because he cooked and enjoyed foie gras. Although he never said so, I suspect Tyler would slap that charge on all meat-eaters. What I don’t understand about the position of people like Tyler, Simon Cowell, and my own mother, is that the justification given for involvement in animal charities is almost always utilitarian: to help end animal suffering and promote animal welfare and happiness. Many of us set aside some of our time and money for charitable causes. Which should we choose? If we’re utilitarians, as most Animal Rights activists seem to be (inspired most likely by the philosopher Peter Singer) then there’s a problem: why, with the extent of human suffering in the world, would we choose to help donkeys, dogs and dolphins first? Cowell could give his money to a charity that saves the lives of children in Africa. Tyler could dedicate his time and energy to causes making the lot of human beings better but he chooses instead to help animals. If a house is burning and it contains a young child and a monkey who would you save? Tyler and Cowell, I hope, would save the child; but this is inconsistent with their own principles as shown in their charitable giving. Effectively they are choosing monkeys before children, as are so many people involved in supporting animal charities; and to my mind this sits rather uneasily with the utilitarian principles they often espouse.

To hold utilitarian ethics and to remain dedicated to the cause of non-human suffering before human suffering is a fairly blatant anti-human ethic. I put it to you Mr Tyler: it is you who is degenerate.

Perhaps that’s harsh. We all value things differently. As an egoist and a libertarian I respect that. However, rationality and logical consistency is a requirement for any worldview and is all too often missing from the Hippo-huggers. Although being internally inconsistent Tyler and others of his ilk aren’t morally wrong, in my view, by valuing other animals above human beings. But it speaks volumes about their ability to relate to other humans that they should value them less than donkeys or ducks. Furthermore, it is a bit odd. A man might buy a frozen chicken, have sex with it, and then cook and eat it. If that’s what floats his boat then that’s fine and dandy, but we should reserve the right to consider him a bit of a weirdo, even perverted. Kangaroo-kissers are in the same boat: they’re maybe not immoral, but they sure as hell are a rather bizarre bunch.

Whatever else we might say about Animal Rights we can at least conclude that in most cases it does something to the normal functioning of a persons mind. The cure? I prescribe a bacon sandwich for breakfast, a burger for lunch and steak for dinner.