The Magazine

Why We Call Them Human Rights

Ecuador just gave every virus, bacterium, insect, tree & weed constitutional rights.

Nov 24, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 10 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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*The European Court of Human Rights recently accepted a case out of Austria that appeals a ruling that refused to declare chimpanzees legal persons.

*Switzerland has constitutionally established the intrinsic dignity of individual plants, based on the many similarities they share with us at the molecular and cellular levels.

Some might say that Ecuador is a small country not worth much concern. But the concept of nature possessing rights seems to be spreading. The CELDF--which was only founded in 1995--brags that it is fielding calls from South Africa, Italy, Australia, and Nepal, that last of which is crafting its own leftist constitution.

Others might say that worrying about nature's rights should take a back seat to less abstract concerns such as the financial crisis and the war on terror. But consider this: The central importance of human life is the fundamental insight undergirding Western civilization. This tenet is now under energetic, and increasingly successful, attack. If such antihumanism prevails, we won't have to worry about nature having rights, but about human beings losing them.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.