A Point of View: Do human rights really exist?

BBC News

Do “human rights” really exist, when they can be so easily taken away, asks Will Self.

I always feel slightly queasy when people begin talking about the humane treatment of animals. Of course, I know what they mean – not being cruel, or inflicting unnecessary pain upon creatures whose lives are – sometimes literally – in the palms of their hands.

Nonetheless, the expression has always jarred with me – after all it’s equally humane, in the sense of typical of a human, to treat animals by clipping their beaks and claws, putting them in vast clucking concentration camps, packed into cages so small they’re unable to move, where they are drip-fed drugs to artificially enhance their breasts, before being executed.

But if humane seems a contestable term when it comes to the rights of fowl, surely there’s nothing exceptionable about humans’ own rights? Who but a paltry fellow would quibble with the resounding sense of humanity enshrined by the first line of Article 1 of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

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