Polar Bear Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? I Hear a German Planning to Kill Me

Continuing the animal rights theme from yesterday, I bring you polar bear cub Knut, left. Knut's mother refused to care for him, so he is being hand-fed by zookeepers at the Berlin Zoo, despite the objection of self-described animal rights activist Frank Albrecht, who says Knut should be killed because "[h]and-rearing a polar bear is not appropriate and is a serious violation of animal rights." This is the sort of stupidity that gives animal rights -- indeed, people called Frank -- a bad name.

How might it be a violation of Knut's rights to be hand-fed by humans instead of killed? Of course, there are some fates worse than death. Perhaps being in a zoo at all is such a fate. But if so, why does Albrecht object to hand-feeding rather than zoo-ing of Knut? Moreover, it's not clear to me that zoos are contrary to the interests of animals. Most modern zoos affiliate with and raise consciousness for organizations that aim to conserve the wild habitat of the kinds of animals on display. That may not justify capture of wild animals for zoo display, but it hardly warrants euthanasia of animals born in captivity.

More broadly, I can't help but wonder whether this story has gotten the press it has because it provides an opportunity to ridicule an animal rights activist. The argument goes like this: This fellow Albrecht is a nut. He loves animals in theory but in fact he wants to kill this adorable polar bear cub. Thus, animal rights is bunk. Well, as someone who believes we have moral obligations to non-human animals, let me just say that Albrecht does not speak for me. It's possible to believe in animal rights and to support the wellbeing of particular animals like Knut.