It has been a big concern to Rouster that many in the world of critical thinking have been led by the nose into the murky water of "soft" animal rights. It has been a disappointing creep into a culture that, for the most part, championed rational and logical thinking. In fact, it was TV sceptical magician's Penn and Teller's expose of the world's second largest animal rights group, PETA, that led Rouster to support scepticism as a movement. However, unfortunately many high profile sceptics have allowed their own sense of self-importance and probably an awareness of certain sympathetic political persuasions to pursue the animal rights agenda.
First it was Richard Dawkins who seemed to be swayed by his friend (and author of the AR bible "Animal Liberation") Peter Singer to start championing his philosophy because Singer welded evolutionary science with utilitarianism. Rouster's theory was that Dawkins was aware of being considered cold and clinical, possibly amoral, due to his total opposition to religion that has been institutionally bound up morals in all cultures. Singer's pseudo-philosophy provided the perfect vehicle to show his sense of compassion and humanity.
Celebrities have often joined the animal rights bandwagon, as it often provides a safe emotive edge to what most see as a shallow personality and is a cheap way to keep in the media's eye. Animal rights groups are into self-publicity, raising funds and sensationalism more than the hard work usually undertaken by animal welfare groups that often slip under the media's radar.
However, Ricky Gervais's conversion to the AR cause was a surprise. He was one of the first alongside fellow celebrity hypocrites like Brian Blessed and John Nettles (both of which have worked alongside performing animals) to rally Downing Street in the name of the militant animal rights group, Animal Defenders International, to ban the use of wild animals in circus. This cause is anything but scientific, as proven by the Radford Report 2007. This post-politically correct comedian put himself over an outspoken critical thinker and firm champion of science. He also did not seem to have any issues with captive animals during his rise to fame through "The Office", "Extras" and some of his early movie cameos, where he appeared in movies that used trained wild animals.
Gervais's first stand-up tour, "Animals", reflected no animal rights agenda in the slightest, despite it being an ample opportunity for Gervais to take pot shots, as the likes of Richard Pryor have done. He also appeared on the front cover the DVD for "Animals" posing with a tiger cub in a send-up of the Michael Jackson "Thriller" album cover. The origins of these cubs, which were being used purely in a commercial capacity, has not yet been ascertained. However, there is no denying their usage and the double standards of Gervais who's understanding of how the media works and misconstrues information is so brilliantly portrayed in "Extras".
|Gervais with tiger cub on the cover of his 'Animals' tour DVD. He was made PeTA's Person of the Year in 2013.|
Even the great libertarian, Michael Shermer, was not immune to the animal rights movement. Shermer had been careful not to side too strongly with the New Atheist movement his friend and inspiration, Richard Dawkins, spearheaded. He was happy to project the view of being an agnostic force for logical thinking and not a zealot. Sadly this was not to last. Early signs of his selective scepticism came in the form of the podcast for his "Skeptical Magazine", "Skepticality", which saw his presenter, Swoopy, completely disengage her critical analysis of a person's position when she interviewed a prominent animal rights author. Shermer did not voice his view until he first began speaking about the film, "Blackfish". From that moment on he seemed to pander to his Berkley contingent by promoting films like "Earthlings" and "Speciesism".
Therefore it is a great relief to this article being published on Brian Dunning's "Skeptoid". Dunning has publicly expressed his dislike of PETA, thankfully it is a derision we have seen on "Skeptic's Guide to the Universe". The objectively written article examining "Blackfish" is by Stephen Propatier who now joins Robert M. Price and Penn Jillette in Rouster's list of favourite sceptics.
Astley's Legacy was formed to counter the misinformation and propaganda spread by animal rights activists. As well as fighting the corner for circus animals and their trainers, we are here to promote and celebrate the cultural heritage of circus in general, and especially in the country of its birth - Great Britain. For more information please see our Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/223570581049199
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