Rights Activism

Rights Activism, or Rights Activist Philosophy, was envisioned and founded in 1987 by William H. Donnelly, and enhanced and developed through the intervening years *.

A book on the subject has been in the works for some time. The working title is It's Time For The Human Race To Grow Up. ("parts of the book" are used here) WHD is proud to claim the official, (self-) recognized designation as the world's first Rights Activist (in this, capitalized sense). But he knows he is not alone, even if most people who are Rights Activists do not know that they fall into this categorical description.

*He admits not solely on his own, in the sense that we all stand on the shoulders of giants, large and small, who come before us, in the many forms they take.

Rights Activism comprises Human Animal Rights, Non-Human Animal Rights, and Environmental Rights. The general concept is that no area of Rights is above, more important than, or should be excluded from, the other. They are all of equal importance, and must be considered together as one overriding, inseparable concept, Rights Activism, and as a personal life choice, socio-economic reality, and (geo-) political structure for any and all truly civilized and humane beings.

Humans Beings Are Animals

Before we continue, it must be noted that the term "human animal" is purposely used here as both a more accurate term and also to ingrain in people's minds the fact that humans are animals, too.

Depending on the level of awareness and understanding a person has, the reaction to this concept usually results in one of two responses: "Of course we are", or "No we're not." There is an underlying, pervasive, widespread belief, and/or misunderstanding, by too many people, that there are people, and there are animals, as two distinct and separate groups.

It is an easy 'argument' to win, of course, by simply pointing out that humans are scientifically and biologically part of the Animal Kingdom, and part of the Class Mammalia, and the Order Primates, etc. This will often result in an answer something like, "Well, yes, but..." However, there are no "buts" about it. It is a simple statement of absolute fact.

Sometimes people will go into denial and defensive mode and bring up "facts" like "humans are at the top of the food chain", etc. But these are not scientific facts, or biological facts, or really even factual facts, except in very narrow definitions and situational logic.

Humans are at the top of the food chain because that is where we have placed ourselves, in our typical egocentric (self-centered) and anthropocentric (human-centered) manner. Human animals are actually prey, for the most part. With 'non-natural', advanced technology, you can make an argument for human animals as apex predators, but only in the 'non-natural' environment sense. Without our advanced tools, we are more prey than predator where larger animals are concerned. (this is a short 'response' to this issue — it would take a full chapter of a book to go into more detail and better and fully explain the concepts – so this will have to suffice for now, and is most likely good enough of an explanation for the greater majority of people to understand and accept the overall concept)

Despite the word games, psychological games, and gramma-syntactical semantics games, that people often use to justify and excuse their viewpoints, the primary problem is that human beings have disassociated ourselves from nature, and from our true nature, to such a degree, that we have sayings like, "Get back to Nature," and (too-) often refer to violent people as "animals", etc. (the latter of which is speciest, which is no different from being racist and sexist and using similar negative, hurtful terms from those concepts – one difference here is that the non-human animals cannot speak up for themselves, so it is up to human animals to do it for them) I suggest it is of utmost importance, for all involved, to come back to a basic understanding and acceptance that human beings are animals, just like all other animals. And we are all "created equal".

A quick aside here, but eventually discussed at some later point. The reason why the working title for my book is It's Time For The Human Race To Grow Up is that an additional part of Rights Activist Philosophy is a form of reductionist philosophy, where I suggest that the vast majority of the problems and issues that face human beings, humanity, society, civilization, and the world at large, can be reduced down to what I call Adult Onset Immaturity.

That is, a continued, often too-extreme, emotional immaturity after the onset of adulthood. This insufficient and problematic lack of maturity, which is "fine" for children, because that is who and what they are, and are supposed to be, causes severe problems for adults on every level.

Additionally, the things that stem from this "unnatural immaturity" are selfishness, self-centeredness, self-interest, self-absorption, and related immaturity-based issues. And then additional negative traits and characteristics stem from these, such as incompassion, lack of empathy, uncaring attitudes and behaviors, anthropocentrism, speciesism, uncontrolled greed and lust, and other extreme solipsismal thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.

(note that I understand that it should be "species" and not "race", because 'race' is an old-world artifact and technically incorrect in usage, however, it is still popular in the common usage of "human race" — I may or may not change its usage)


Human Animal Rights comprises all of the categorized human rights, such as Human Rights, Civil Rights, Equal Rights, Gender Rights, Age Rights, and other natural rights that cannot (should not) be abridged or denied. (except in rare, extreme circumstances, like the loss of liberty due to extreme anti-social personal actions (such as imprisonment due to illegal activities))

Non-Human Animal Rights comprises Animal Rights, Animal Welfare, Animal Defense, Animal Protection, and related areas of interest, such as Cruelty-Free and Vegan Products, Veganism, and Vegetarianism. The primary and fundamental concept upon which NHAR is founded is that all animals are created equal in the sense generally used for human animals, and that speciesism is just as bad as racism, sexism, genderism, and other contraindicated beliefs and behaviors.

Environmental Rights can be viewed two ways.
1) The right our environment has to exist in its own right as an entity unto itself.
2) Our right to our mutual environment, as human and non-human animals.
This naturally suggests that every animal, human and non-human alike, has a right to use our environment in the most natural of senses, but none of us has the right to abuse it, misuse it, over-use it, or destroy it. (and it can easily be argued that only human animals negatively affect our mutual environment as noted, especially in the 'unnatural' sense)


Rights are Incontrovertible, Inalienable, Self-Evident Truths

One of the best ways to understand Rights Activism, is to see it through an appropriately corrected and updated version of the Preamble to the United States of America's Declaration of Independence. This section of the document is arguably one of the finest examples of a description of what a "right" is and how they relate to humans. As we know, the Founding Fathers were not perfect, so most of the examples they left us rarely refer to, include, or are applicable to (in their minds of the time), women, or non-whites. So there is usually room for improvement in those respects, among others. To wit: (from 'just (white) men', to 'all people', to 'all animals, and our mutual environment')

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men people animals, and our mutual environment, are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with inherently possess certain un inalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, each in their own way.

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all animals, and our mutual environment, are created equal,
that they inherently possess certain inalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, each in their own way.

Beyond the above, there are additional concepts that must naturally be included in Rights Activist Philosophy, such as the wrongness of Unnecessary Violence, The Three Forms of Violence, The Degrees and Levels of Violence, Political Correctness versus Ethical Correctness, other related issues, and last but certainly not least, Activism.


Unnecessary Violence can best be described as follows:

In regard to any act of violence, if there is a reasonable, non-violent alternative, then the act of violence in question is unnecessary, and therefore wrong.

This is a near-absolute concept. (in the ideal, which should always be attempted) There is even an allowed qualifier of "reasonable". For example, if it cost one million dollars a year to be a vegetarian, then that can, could, and should be considered "unreasonable". "Luckily", in a rational and objective sense, almost all violent acts that are counter to the concept of Rights Activism have very reasonable, non-violent alternatives. The only way a person can justify the unreasonable acts of violence is through irrationality, ignorance, stubbornness, skewed thinking, and/or uncaring acts that are lacking in compassion, empathy, decency, and humanity. (all of which stem from immaturity and things that stem from immaturity — or there is that class of people who are "broken" psychologically, like sociopaths and psychopaths)

(as something of a quick and short side note, "war" is a somewhat separate concept that needs discussion and thought; of course, in our "modern", "civilized" age, most people usually seek and/or encourage "diplomatic" means before violence, when and if at all possible, at the very least – however, by 'definition' (if not reality), "war" would be considered by many/most people to fall under the concept of (unfortunate) "necessary violence", but only in its purest form, in the sense of true self-protection and/or the protection of others – unfortunately, the geopolitical realities are often so complex that it is nearly impossible to make a decent decision about international conflicts one way or the other –
NOTE: Unless one embraces and attempts what could be described as "Ghandi-esque Pacifism", as per many/most legal statutes, laws, and court-based decisions, including 'common law' and historical legal precedents, depending on jurisdiction, of course, the concepts of violence-based personal "self-protection" and/or the "protection of others", all-the-while taking into account related concepts like 'initial aggressor', 'reasonable force' and 'not then becoming the agressor' (based on circumstance), would usually also fall under the concepts of "necessary violence", and are often and rightly considered a fundamental human right and therefore would be "okay")


The Degrees and Levels of Violence

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The Three Forms of Violence are mental, emotional, and physical. Most people understand and accept the concept of physical violence. This one is a no-brainer, if you will. And we have recently made great strides in being anti-emotional violence (mostly as applied to children, and to women), and to a lesser extent, anti-mental violence. Often emotional violence and mental violence are difficult, or near-impossible, to separate, as they almost always exist together. Mental violence takes the form of thinking violent thoughts, which can then be enacted in the physical form, and also the emotional form (via speech and writing). It also includes self-violence, such as a person thinking they are stupid, putting oneself in self-destructive situations and acting out self-destructively, and more extreme situations of self-abuse and self-hurt, etc.

A fundamental concept to keep in mind here is:

We only hurt others to first and foremost hurt ourselves, as an act of self-destructive behavior.


The Next Step In Humane Evolution

Those who choose a violence-based life and lifestyle, in the many ways that people do, are not "bad people." (non-veg'ans, etc.) There is no such thing as a "bad", or "evil", person.

We are all good people, who sometimes choose to do "bad things."

(via unnecessary violence, due to ignorance, weakness, etc. — accidents are a separate issue)

The goal for us all is to reduce the violence in our lives, to the lowest levels and degrees possible, in as many ways as possible, thereby helping to make ourselves better people, and helping to make the world a better place.

This is accomplished by increasing the levels, degrees, and manners, of caring, kindness, "goodness", decency, humaneness and humanity, compassion, empathy, non-violence, and pacifism, in our lives.

They are all like muscles, in a sense, and need to be exercised on a daily basis, to make them stronger, to make ourselves stronger people. (in this case, mentally and emotionally, along with physically — "spiritually" is also important, but should be regarded as a separate case, especially when applied to, or in association with, dogmatic religious beliefs)



Vegetarianism, ideally and ultimately veganism, is a natural part of Rights Activist Philosophy and Rights Activism. Since the use and consumption of animal-based foodstuffs can only be achieved by causing non-human animals loss of personal freedom, suffering, pain, agony, and death, a person who embraces Rights Activism must (eventually) be a vegan. (as a lifestyle, not just a diet) This is often a process, especially for those who come from a "standard", "mainstream" animal flesh-based diet. It takes time for the concepts to involved to "sink in" and be accepted, embraced, and implemented. Some are able to do it faster, and others need more time.

This is partly due to the psychological aspects of how and what we eat, including what we are taught to eat by our parents, schools, governments, television and other advertising and marketing, and peers and the peer pressure involved in that. As well as the fact that what we eat is one of the few things that most people have almost total control over in their lives, and, since we must eat a few times a day or so, every day, for years and years, our eating habits are true habits, which are then often difficult to change. (which is why people often find "diets" so difficult to implement and stay true to) And there are other aspects, like "comfort foods", stress eating, depression eating, memories of the foods are mothers made for us as children, etc...

A first step might be Ovo-Lacto Vegetarianism. (the consumption of eggs and milk-based products) This eschews all meat and meat-based products and ingredients. Even using the old-style "Four Food Groups", and even more so the "Food Pyramid", or whatever socio-political (and/or advertising- and marketing-based, if not indoctrination- and propaganda-based) "fad" is in current popularity, if a person is eating a fairly balanced diet, they should be at least 75% vegetarian and 50% vegan. All that is required is to reduce the 25% flesh-based eating, and eventually the other 25% animal products-based eating. This is more healthful for the human animal, the non-human animals, and our mutual environment.

In this day and age, when vegetarianism has become so mainstream (in the United States and other so-called first-world, and second-world, nations, societies and cultures), it is much easier for people to become vegetarian than in the 20th century, or even 10 years ago. (based on a year 2015 reference) Those choosing to eat this diet are not looked upon like they are radicals, extremists, Martians, etc. (for the most part, anymore). There are also many choices of vegetarian foodstuffs, including "replacement" products like "fake meats", "pseudo-cheeses", etc., and the availability of vegetarian and vegan alternatives in many, if not most, restaurants. (probably depending on locale)

Beyond one's diet, there are also non-dietary issues involved in being a "true vegan" or "pure vegan" in the greater sense and concept of the term. This includes using Cruelty-Free Products (those not tested on non-human animals – who have no say in the matter and are obviously not able to give consent, just as children and people with intellectual disability are unable to give consent in many matters, and must therefore be protected by society and laws). Additionally, Vegan Products are those that are not only cruelty-free, but also do not contain animal products and by-products. This includes not wearing the skin (leather) and fur of animals (and feathers, cashmere, angora, etc...), and not using personal hygiene and household products that contain lanolin (from sheep's wool), "animal protein" (blood), and even beeswax (and honey), etc... And, of course, a Rights Activist would be against any and all antivivisection, whether it is testing of products on animals, the use of animals in medical experimentation, etc...

Only a short summary about these issues is provided hear. An introduction for those who are unfamiliar, unaware, etc. There are many good books and other resources about these issues available from a variety of sources.

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Political Correctness versus Ethical Correctness

Quickly, Ethical Correctness (EC) is (in a way, or perhaps absolutely) the antithesis of Political Correctness (PC).

Political Correctness (PC) is when you do something so that you don't look bad, or want people to think you are a 'good person', or at least not a 'bad person', which is not the correct way, or the correct reason, to go about anything. You are doing something, or saying something, or acting in some way, for all the wrong reasons, for appearance's sake. It is fake, and fraudulent, often self-serving and invested in self-interest, with little to no regard for others, and you should not be surprised when people have a negative and/or adverse reaction to Politically Correct behavior, thinking, ideas, beliefs, attitudes, and speech. Although there are some people who will attack something as Politically Correct when it is not, for expediency and effectively or actually Politically Correct reasons, turning the concept back on itself as a type of vicious loop. They are, of course, equally wrong.

Ethical Correctness (EC) is when you do something because it is the right thing to do, for ALL involved, and because you truly care – about the situation, the people involved, and ideally the human and non-human animals and environmental aspects and issues as they pertain to the situation. Ethically Correct behavior, thinking, ideas, beliefs, attitudes, and speech come from a positive, 'good' place, taking into account as much caring, kindness, decency, compassion, empathy, pacifism, non-violence, equality, and fairness as possible, and often stems from selflessness, and sometimes self-sacrifice. This is the way a 'normal' person thinks and acts. No one is perfect, and there is always room for improvement, and sometimes 'meaning well' isn't enough, although 'intent is everything', but it is in general a much-preferred form of reality. The more Ethical Correctness there is in the world, the better the world will be, for all.

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Activism for Activists

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Links To Other Information

The Nonhuman Rights Project
PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals



Copyright © 1987-2015 by William Donnelly.