Animals cannot be "slaves"
January 31st, 2012
01:59 PM ET

Animals cannot be "slaves"

Editor's Note: Rick Berman is the Executive Director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices. This article is written in response to the op-ed Can animals be slaves? published on GPS last week.

By Rick Berman - Special to CNN

When People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced that it was suing SeaWorld under the 13th Amendment of the Constitution for “enslaving” killer whales, the reaction was predictable: Derision. After all, it’s PETA - the same people who claim giving a kid a hamburger is child abuse. It’s just another media stunt, right?

In fact, we should be quite concerned about animal rights activism in the courts.

A longtime goal of the animal rights movement is to gain “standing” in court for animals. Under current law, animals are considered property. If you don’t feed your dog for a week, he can’t sue you - though, fortunately, you can be charged with animal cruelty. That’s because animals’ welfare is protected under law, even if animals don’t have the right to sue.

Standing - the first step in animal rights law - would allow an animal to directly bring action against a person. Of course, it’s not like a cow is going to file paperwork. Animals will have appointed - or self-anointed - representatives to speak for them.

Can you see where this is going? Let’s consider Switzerland.

Since the 1990s, the canton of Zurich has had an official government-appointed “animal lawyer” to represent the wishes of his “clients." It’s turned into a three-ring circus: A Swiss fisherman was hauled into court after it took him too long (10 minutes) to reel in a pike. This Swiss animal lawyer also “represented” fish used in a game show - because they weren’t treated with “dignity.”

Thankfully, in 2010 the Swiss voted down expanding “animal lawyers” to the whole country via referendum. We should learn from them. There are plenty of smarter, more sophisticated, and more fully clothed animal rights activists than PETA trying to change the legal system in the U.S. for the worse.

Consider that more than 100 law schools now offer animal law classes, including the top 10, when a few years ago almost no law school had such classes. There are more than 150 chapters of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.

While this is the next generation, the animal rights philosophy has already manifested itself in positions of power. Cass Sunstein, who runs the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has written that animals should be given standing to sue humans in court (presumably with taxpayer funds for court-appointed lawyers).

“[A]nimals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives, to prevent violations of current law,” Sunstein has written. “Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf.”

And who could those “representatives” for the animals be? Why, PETA, of course—the same folks comparing SeaWorld to a 19th Century slaveholder. It could also open the door for every other animal rights group sharing PETA’s agenda to tie up the court system.

Look at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Don’t let the name fool you - this group has no affiliation with your local humane society. It’s not a pet-shelter group, just PETA’s wealthy big brother. And it has close to 50 lawyers on staff. (How can it afford so many? In part because this “Humane Society” only gives 1 percent of the money it raises to pet shelters.)

Self-anointed groups that “speak for animals” like PETA and HSUS could go crazy in court. They could sue Old MacDonald back to the Stone Age. Those lawsuits over spilt hot coffee suddenly look reasonable by comparison.

The idea that the Constitution gives rights to animals is bogus. After all, in the times of our Founding Fathers people used horses for transport and whale oil. “We the People” is exclusive to humans. Bears do not have the right to bear arms.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Rick Berman.

Post by:
Topics: Animals • Law

soundoff (46 Responses)

    Not bad, but instead of doing things only for show, how about looking after someone I just visited in Bronx area.
    It was just very cold and Snowy. I approached a group of homeless people whose ages are between 20 to 57 Years old.
    I asked them why they don't go to shelter. Their response was so long and believable. I called my Uncle and he showed up with 14 passengers stretch Navigator Limousine. We make them to sign authorization and we told them they are going to work at his farm. They all agree.
    4 yards away there were Two people who were smoking Cigarettes kept observing what we are doing. When we approached Long Island, they sound the siren with unmarked police vehicle. Before they asked us, we said Two Weeks ago we saw Two dead body here and we reported it. At this time, we don't want these people frozen to die.
    The undercover officers said, let them die why you care? The Two Brothers we had in the Limo respond, " our Families were the Second WW veterans, we deserve respect". Then, they let us go.

    Right now, I visited all of them last Week, they are doing very-well farming and they earn their wages.
    You see, these are the people who are being refused all kinds of assistances and shelters by the Government. But now, they all paying taxes.

    What is really missing here is, only few ethnic groups and opportunities has accesses to Government and public jobs. These specific groups, they already created big barriers between other or disadvantaged ethnic groups and the Governments. The American Government must open his Eye and Ear and look for beyond the barriers. He must also, investigate and break the barriers to out reach those who are left behind and voiceless. We have too many young people who are being treated less than domestic animals.

    January 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Reply
    • mindcrime

      PETA, nor their parent company, are obligated to give any of their donations away to any of the causes they say they will.

      Did you know that under PETA mandate, you're not allowed to have a pet animal? That's right, keep shelling out to PETA, believe it or not, if they actually put the money that you gave them to use, you wouldn't have a pet.

      1% going to the shelters is for euthanasia, literally. PETA does _NOT_ want you to have a pet dog/cat/whatever, no matter where you get it from.

      February 2, 2012 at 3:49 am | Reply

    We always outlawed Human Right on other Countries, but we are the worst here in America. First, we must fix our problems, before we shouted.

    January 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  3. J.Jamieson

    Congratulations. At last journalists start to see through the Animal Rights groups. More journalists, and publications, should have the courage to do stories like this against these crazy groups who have got too powerful.

    January 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Reply
    • john639

      Journalists?? is that what you call right wing lobbyists now a days that shill for restaurants, food companies, Big Ag, Beef co.s, CAFO's and Research labs?? Thats a JOKE!!

      Richard Berman is a MILLIONAIRE because he gets paid to lobby against Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and any other org that gets in the ay of fat cat corporate profits.

      Wanna see al his FAKE websites???

      January 31, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Reply
      • Alex

        As usually, if you have nothing to say about the article, attack the author.

        This is a typical style of comments under honest articles about animal rights movement:

        February 1, 2012 at 3:37 am |
      • BarRich

        Must agree with Alex and John Berman. Having closely monitored the animal rights movement for 25 years, their goals deserve to be questioned by media and the general public. Too many mistake the real HSUS and PETA agenda. Time to wake up!

        February 1, 2012 at 11:19 am |
      • Alex

        P.S. Thank you for mentioning research labs, I missed it first time, because I know H$U$ supporters usually avoid to mention them.
        In the other words, Berman defends anaesthetics, antibiotics, anticoagulants, blood transfusions, insulin, kidney dialysis, organ transplants, vaccines and other things that saved billions of lives. Bravo, Mr. Berman!
        More info:

        February 2, 2012 at 4:26 am |
  4. patricia lemon

    i think peta and hsus are carrieing there so called justice for animals have went to far.they need to spend there time looking for real abused animals,get anmials off the streets,spend the money for vets,instead they are looking for places like sea world were the big bucks are.why dont they travel to the jungles to stop killing over animal parts for people to a huge scheme to make money,for there selves and the lawyers.i love animals i have some myself.go after the ones who beat,starve them and cage them.there people in our world,homeless,starving,being abused and murered.whats wrong with this picture.they reciece millons of dollars free dontaions,the they spend it on there trips,lawyers,more than like they recive a paycheck.more than likely its moe for them to fill high and mighty.people need to beware of scams and i believe this much do they spend on making tee shirts,tote bags to get you to join,there meals probly come ouut of the money too.and for these lawyers there making tons off peta.

    January 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Reply
    • john639

      Richard Berman is nothing but a Fat Cat Lobbyist who gets paid MILLIONS to rant and post propaganda.

      60 Minutes calls him "Dr. Evil"

      Want to know about all his Fake websites?

      January 31, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Reply
      • Alex

        PeTA is making $35M annually. H$U$ more then $100M. Both spends less then 1% to animal care, and much more to lobbying and violence.

        February 1, 2012 at 3:56 am |
      • jackie baker

        Well said John, anyone who gets sucked into believing Berman, are nuts.

        February 1, 2012 at 10:44 am |
      • Pat


        Your idol Wayne Pacelle is a fat cat lobbyist and a con artist. He fleeces tens of millions of dollars a year from animal lovers and uses it to rant; spread propaganda; manipulate and reward gullible politicians; and fly HSUS-friendly reporters, celebrities and media figures to the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where they are rewarded with annual Genesis awards. Not exactly what the average donor imagines she writes a check, while the HSUS legal swat team does everything it can to keep the public from discovering where Humane Society donations really go.

        February 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  5. Terry Ward

    Rick Berman on animals is like Jeffrey Dahmer on Boy Scouts.

    January 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • Pat

      Who let Terry Ward out?

      February 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  6. George Patton

    Maybe animals cannot be slaves but that doesn't stop the U.S. military from training animals like dogs and dolphins to kill people. This kind of practice is most unsavory to say the least!!! No animal should ever be trained to kill.

    January 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Reply
    • Kusarigama

      Waht a joke.

      Lots of animals kill. They do it naturally. Take a few Biology classes.

      February 2, 2012 at 8:43 am | Reply
  7. j. von hettlingen

    As long as animals are not maltreated, they can be useful without being slaves. Dogs can rescue people in precarious situations like avalanche and earthquake.

    January 31, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Reply
    • Karen S.

      That's true. As long as they aren't maltreated, they can be useful without being slaves. Like for example in the airport there are dogs with police officers that are trained to help them detect drugs or any illegal things people want to take out of the country or enter inside the country to sell them or harm others.

      October 1, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  8. D55

    People should start giving their money to their local animal shelters and rescue groups and wake up and learn the difference between animal welfare and animal rights if they REALLY want to help animals. There are already plenty of laws on the books protecting animals from maltreatment. As plainly stated over and over again by the heads of both PETA and HSUS, their goal is to completely end human use of animals for any purpose. Yes, this means denying you the right to have a pet. Think it can't happen??? Take a look at history.

    January 31, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  9. Daniel Elstein

    It is disappointing that you would publish an article from such a disreputable individual. "In the mid-1990s, Berman was funded by tobacco giant Phillip Morris to fight the movement to add non-smoking sections in restaurants." "In the 1990s, Berman was the president of Beverage Retailers Against Drunk Driving (BRADD), an organization formed to combat Mothers Against Drunk Driving." He's dedicated his life to fighting unions, charities, and anything that gets in the way of the bottom line for his clients. He has no interest in the truth. Why would CNN even take this guy seriously?

    January 31, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
    • Alex

      Who combat charities? What charities? Charities that, like H$U$, spend 1% of its budget to charitable activities? I think Microsoft spends more.

      Who really combat real charities is PeTA and its pawn PCRM:

      "PCRM discourages Americans from making donations to health charities like the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, the American Red Cross, and even Boys Town. All because they support research that requires animals, in order to cure human diseases. PCRM’s multi-year crusade against the March of Dimes, which includes protests directed at March walkers, volunteers, and donors, has been reported widely."

      February 2, 2012 at 4:20 am | Reply
  10. Alex

    Very good. Here is another excellent article about what grants rights.

    February 1, 2012 at 3:29 am | Reply
  11. Alex

    Instead of animal care, PeTA and H$U$ supports violent animal rights groups who target medical researchers. Animal rights movement agrees that its goal (#1 of 12) is to stop medical progress.

    Any donation to PeTA or H$U$ is a slow and painful death to many seriously ill people.

    February 1, 2012 at 3:51 am | Reply
  12. Corey

    What a biased article. Animal rights? Don't fool yourself, animals have no rights. Animal cruelty statutes provide a criminal punishment against the wrongdoer, not remedy for the tortured animal. Standing for animals could bring such a remedy. I don't really understand the argument for not providing rights to animals. The bulk of it seems to break down to their inability to speak, which humans infer to mean that the animals lack intelligence. With this logic, we should deny rights to mentally challenged children who inherently have less intelligence and an inability to speak. Most people hate organizations like PETA (and the Humane Society apparently) because of what they reveal. They reveal the cruelty on factory farms, the health detriments of animal bi-products, and the enslavement involved in animals being used for entertainment purposes. People hate the truth. These organizations "make you feel bad," because something, at some point has gone very, very wrong.

    February 1, 2012 at 8:22 am | Reply
    • jackie baker

      Corey,great see another who knows the truth 🙂

      February 1, 2012 at 10:45 am | Reply
    • Dannielle

      rights are not a freestanding item, they are paired with responsibility, a concept for which animals cannot be held accountable.
      if you want to give deer the right to sue me for hunting them, I'd like to counter sue them for destruction of property and potential exposure to Lyme disease- or do I need to add Ticks to the complaint? will they also sue wolves, coyotes, cougars and bears for using them as food?
      what qualifies a lawyer to speak onbehaklf of the animal? there's no way to tell if they are actually doing what the animal wants, only what they think the animal *might want. isn't that exploitative on it's very face? a search and rescue dog who loves their work could be the victim of a carpetbagging lawyer who uses him as an unwilling plaintiff in a suit for damages or unpaid wages.

      can you see how ridiculous this all is?

      when my dog pays the rent, we can talk about her grievances about the kibble I feed her.

      February 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Reply
    • John

      Corey, HSUS's focus on exposing Berman is just a cover. Their harshest critics are other animal welfare groups, including the Humane Farming Association, the No-Kill Advocacy Center, and local shelters and rescue groups from coast to coast. The entire emergency rescue staff resigned in 2009 because of HSUS's overly agressive, swat team style raids and exploitation of disasters and cruelty cases for PR and fundraising purposes. Allen Schwartz and Randy Graves, key members of the response team, warned about potential lawsuits from HSUS's targets and they were correct. Pacelle defended and boasted about HSUS's "cowboy ways" until raids were deemed illlegal and lawsuits filed.

      Alex, HSUS not only funds extrmists, they hire them. Google "J.P. Goodwin No Compromise" and "J.P. Goodwin Conflict Gypsy." Pacelle defends Goodwin as well.

      February 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  13. Martin

    Well said Corey – the only sane post against this article!

    February 1, 2012 at 8:37 am | Reply
    • Monica

      I've been a vegan and a bellydancer for 8 years now. About 3 years ago, I pmrforeed in a show organized by my dance teacher(who's also vegan,yay!) called Bellydancers Love Animals. We raised money for Voices for Animals of Western PA. In addition to the show, there was also vegan food and drink, and an open dance floor for anyone to get up and dance. I love bellydancing just as much as I love being vegan and bettering the lives of animals. I love to travel and have always been fascinated by other cultures. I spent 10 months living in Israel. I was on a kibbutz for the first 5 months, and for the second 5 months I lived in Tel Aviv. While I was living in Tel Aviv, I started volunteering with the SPCA. I walked the dogs twice a week, helped clean up the shelter, and once I accompanied a fellow volunteer to the vet to pick up 2 dogs. Every few weeks, the SPCA had a fundraiser at the mall. We brought a small dog with us(yes in Tel Aviv you can bring your dog into the mall), and set up an information booth and collected donations. In addition, I also took a photography class while I was there. At the end of my 5 months, I put together a small photo album of some of the dogs at the shelter, and gave it to the director. He really appreciated it. It was a lot of fun, the best 5 months of my life. It also turned out to be a great way for me to practice my Hebrew! Although, I still can't pronounce the name for the SPCA in Hebrew, it's too many syllables! Recently, I started volunteering at the Animal Rescue League. I took the classes offered to help you learn about the shelter and what it means to volunteer there. I started off as a cat cuddler. That didn't last very long because I wanted to take them all home with me, and I already have 3 cats and a dog. So, I started helping out at the fundraising events. I thought this would be easier, but I'm a bit of a shy person. However, I remembered how much fun I had in Israel with the fundraisers, and also remembered that I was doing it for the animals, so that made it a lot easier.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:07 am | Reply
  14. Olivia

    Mr. Berman – there is a cure for your condition, I am sure of it. Modern medicine can work miracles, especially when it does without animal experimentation. Your militant anthropocentrism is disgusting. Your misconception of your own importance and that of the species and race (white American male, no doubt) you belong to is a fascinating study, to be sure. You are the type of guy who would welcome the return of human slavery as a return to good ole American values. What a joke – and a bad one at that – you are, my dear boy. I wish more people what see you for what you are ..

    February 1, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
    • jackie baker

      bless you ❤

      February 1, 2012 at 10:46 am | Reply
    • Alex

      I am sure there is cure for your condition – misunderstanding of "modern medicine".

      According to the polls:
      Most people quickly begin to understand Holy water and "all natural" are not what can work miracles.
      Anaesthetics, antibiotics, blood transfusion, insulin, organ transplants, kidney dialysis, vaccines and other thing that would never be discovered without animal experimentation are.

      After you end calling me anthropocentrist (yes I am) ask your pet would it's life be better without rabies vaccine, that would also never be discovered without use of animals.

      February 2, 2012 at 3:55 am | Reply
  15. jackie baker

    “We the People” is exclusive to humans. Bears do not have the right to bear arms."

    I wish they did and I wish they could hunt you down Berman !!

    February 1, 2012 at 10:47 am | Reply
    • Alex

      If animals could bear guns, PeTA would be the first to get shot.

      February 3, 2012 at 6:57 am | Reply
  16. Provoked

    Can animals be slaves? I think so. Can dolphins be conscripts in war? I know so:

    Finally, @Terry Ward "Rick Berman on animals is like Jeffrey Dahmer on Boy Scouts." What a gem of observation! Thank you!

    February 1, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  17. Susie Q

    Dear CNN,
    Please do share with your viewers just exactly who Rick Berman is. He is a highly paid lobbyist who gets paid to get articles like this placed. I wonder how much he earned to get this "Op-ed" piece placed here. Rick Berman is a lobbyist who has no views that he does not get paid thousands and thousands of dollars to state. Please don't insult us.

    February 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Reply
    • Pat

      And Wayne Pacelle is an arrogant career lobbyist with an army of publicists, paid sycophants and the under-medicated, unemployed tag team of Terry Ward and John Doppler Schiff. HSUS wastes tens of millions of dollars a year on fundraising scams, political theater and lobbying activities that violate the IRS limits for tax-exempt charities. HSUS and its gang of thieves insult those organizations and individuals in animal welfare that obey the rules and honor donor intent.

      By the way, Pacelle very recently railed – correctly – against a Hitler-HSUS comparison. The Berman-Dahmer analogy is nearly as stupid and just as hypocritical.

      February 1, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Reply
    • Alex

      I am not as jealous as you. For me it's not interesting how much money Berman earns. It's interesting what and who slows down medical research.

      February 2, 2012 at 4:10 am | Reply
  18. Terry Ward

    Wouldn't it be fun to find out how much money shelters have received from the phony so-called Humane Society For Shelter Pets?
    But guess what!
    We never will!
    Because unlike the ASPCA and the HSUS, the phony HSSP does not give ONE PENNY...or one second of time.. to anyone!
    So they don't have to keep public records.

    Aren't lawyers clever?

    Lawyer Rick Berman created the phony HSSP NOT to help shelters but to whack his OTHER client's arch-enemies the HSUS.

    Because lawyer Rick Berman makes a big pile of cash from his other clients...most of whom sell gazillions of burgers and chicken-wings and pork-bellies VERY CHEAP.

    The burger&chicken-wing sellers HATE the HSUS!
    Because the HSUS ...and their millions of supporters..are demanding the the burger&bacon boys change the way they treat the cows and pigs and chickens!

    Creating more humane conditions for livestock costs money.
    Giant corporations like the burger& bacon boys HATE to spend more money.
    So they hired a clever DC lawyer like Rick Berman to whack ANY group who questions their treatment of animals.
    Pretty slick, huh?

    February 2, 2012 at 11:29 am | Reply
  19. Karen S.

    This article can persuade others by stopping animal abuse and caring for those animals that go through aminal abuse everyday. This article helps stop animal abuse by saying that now there are lawyers that defend animal abuse. Animals now have someone that cares for them and that will stop others from abusing animals. This makes those who abuse animals stop abusing them because now they aren't alone. If they abuse animals they already know the consequences and if they don't know they'll find out. People shouldn't abuse animals because animals also have feelings just like us humans. Finally, their's someone that actually cares about stopping animal abuse. This will make the country much better and it will also make animals feel safer. That's why their are aggressive animals out there because they don't know who to trust.

    October 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Reply
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  21. Karlyn Cerar

    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) (stylized PeTA) is an American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president. A non-profit corporation with 300 employees, it claims to have three million members and supporters and to be the largest animal rights group in the world. Its slogan is "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any way."`..-"

    Kind thoughts <

    July 1, 2013 at 2:27 am | Reply
  22. KaD

    PETA is so full of lies and BS I can't believe anyone still listens to these whack jobs. They were CONVICTED in a German court of paying people to skin animals alive for their shock videos which generate millions in donations from their gullible followers. Several other animal rights organizations have also been convicted: According to their OWN records they routinely euthanize more than 90% of the animals they 'rescue'-this is in line with their mission statement that pets are slaves, and the reason they give is to 'keep the animals from being abused'. At the same time according to their own records they paid over $9000 for a walk in freezer: As one woman who used to be a PETA activist said: "I began to realise that the animal rights movement is about money and power. To many of these groups, it is a business and a game and it has very little to do with animal welfare. These groups take advantage of uninformed people – often the young and the elderly – who really think that by donating money they are helping to save the world. They are very successful in spreading their damaging messages." – See more at:

    January 13, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Reply
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