Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 411, April 1, 2007

"It's the business of mass media to distract Americans
from everything that's actually important."


Eat More Polar Bear
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Unless you're Helen Keller falling in a forest, you know all about "Cute Knut", a baby polar bear in the Berlin Zoo, and the center of the most absurd controversy to show up on my laptop for a season or three.

As animals will sometimes, Knut's mommy inexplicably abandoned him and his twin brother—who died shortly afterward—refusing to feed them. Taking up the challenge, the Berlin zookeepers bottle-fed the little guy, kept him happy and in good health, until the present, when he's become the zoo's unofficial mascot and the darling of the German media.

Something very much like this happened at the Denver Zoo a few years ago, with a pair of baby polar bears named Klondike and Snow, except that both of these critters were quite sickly and nearly died. Their kindly caretakers got them through it, however, and they were eventually moved to another zoo that could handle grownup polar bears better.

I suppose I should stop right here and explain that I am not an "animal lover" in the sense people usually intend when they use that term. Nor am I at all like the guy whom Tom Lehrer once described as having "majored in animal husbandry—until they caught him at it". I freely confess that when Klondike and Snow were constantly in the news, I got thoroughly sick of seeing and hearing about them day after day.

Of course it's the business of mass media to distract Americans from everything that's actually important—sometimes vital—in life, and pull their focus to the trivial. If people made that much of a fuss about sick or injured children (say, in Iraq)—or our sick and injured Bill of Rights—it would become a vastly better world, albeit one that offered many fewer juicy opportunities to the mass media.

But as usual, I digress.

I am an avid carnivore and a once-and-future hunter. I haven't had a chance yet to sample bear or possum, but I have eaten just about everything else that lopes, crawls, swims, or flies over the planet's surface, including alligator and rattlesnake (both of which taste like chicken), whale meat and seal flippers (the former tastes like beef, the latter like beef marinated in cod liver oil), and ants and bees (which taste like ants and bees). I've also written very energetically on occasion against the counterfeit philosophy of "animal rights", because it makes no claim that can be debated (and demolished) with regard to what rights are and where they came from, and it's almost always used, sooner or later, as an excuse to deny or diminish human rights.

Often, those who argue in favor of "animal rights"—or perform violent criminal acts in the name of that cause—aren't doing the animals any favors, either. In the pretzel-twisted minds of certain individuals, it was morally wrong to save baby polar bear Knut from starvation and death. He should have been given a lethal injection, proclaimed a flock of self-anointed animal rights activists, rather than being brought up "suffering the humiliation of being treated as a [gasp!] domestic pet. . . it is inappropriate for a predator, known for its fierceness and ability to fend for itself in the wild, to be snuggled."

You have no idea how hard it was to write that last paragraph or to use the word "minds" in connection with the wimpersnits it concerns — one Ruediger Schmiedel, head of something he calls the "Foundation for Bears" and somebody referred to as "spokesman Frank Albrecht" — encompassing, as it does, one of the craziest bonnet-bees ever set free in these Crazy Years that Robert Heinlein warned us were coming. You can almost hear the contempt with which that final word was uttered. It's a dead giveaway with regard to what's really going on, here.

The plain, unavoidable fact is that "meaning", "purpose", and "rights" are purely human phenomena. They are what make us human and, as unfashionable as it may be to say so, superior to the beasts. They are what place us at the top of an evolutionary pyramid that thinkers like Stephen Jay Gould attempt to pretend doesn't exist. But to even a relatively advanced organism like a bear, there is no "meaning" or "purpose", and "rights" are whatever you tear out of a prey-animal's throat.

Rest assured, however, that none of this flapdoodle has anything to do with the putative rights of animals, or with anything except whatever it is that's festering within the glassy hearts and shriveled souls of specimens Like Reudi and Frank. My long experience is that stunted, half-baked creatures like this are incapable of making or maintaining lasting human relationships. Instead, they seethe inwardly with a deep, corrosive self-loathing they eventually extend to their families, their countries, and in the most aggravated cases, to their species.

Democracy is not the best way of ascertaining scientific or moral truth, but I must not be the only one who feels the way I do about these so-called "animal rights activists". The online newspaper in which I first read about this situation already had 86 commentaries on it, fully two thirds of which suggested that maybe it was Reudi and Frank who should get a lethal injection, not Knut. Not a terribly libertarian suggestion, but one I would have some visceral difficulty opposing.

Precisely how far, do you suppose, does Frank and Reudi's concern over Knut's "suffering" and "humiliation" extend? If the little guy has to die, to save him from the unspeakable embarrassment of being somebody's pet, would they endorse distributing his meager little carcass to the starving masses? How about selling his remains to a fancy restaurant so that the proceeds from the gourmet meal he would become—think of it as "bear veal"—might benefit the deserving poor?

That's what I thought.

It seems to me, as it apparently does to everybody else, that the preservation of an animal's rights (if one chooses to believe in such nonsense) logically begins with a goal of preserving the animal's life — barring an Urso-Randian argument regarding the bear's survival qua bear. Insisting that its rights are best preserved by killing it sounds suspiciously to me like "We had to destroy the village to save it".

Me, I think the world is a nicer place with a furry little ball like Knut around to grace it. I know he's happier alive—with nasty old humans to love and take care of him—than he would be dead. How do I know? Because my big cat Ambrose, known for his fierceness and ability to fend for himself in the wild, will abandon a bowl of food and cross the room to be snuggled, or patted on the head and spoken to.

It's always the same story with these people, profession of the absurd, insistence on the impossible, and a sadistic twist at the end to grab the attention of the media, drum up publicity, and generate donations from sick whackos whose psyches are as pathological as their own.

There is a cure, though, if not for them as individuals, then at least for the civilization into which they have intruded themselves like a virus: hold them to their word. For example, I can't promise ever to take animal rights activists seriously, but I might put a toe in the road if I ever heard that they were willing to take the place of rabbits and other laboratory animals in medical and cosmetic testing.

But I won't.

I won't.

Of course I won't.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

A decensored, e-published version of Neil's 1984 novel, TOM PAINE MARU is available at: Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at, or at

Got Gear?  Best Prices on the Net!
The Musician's Choice
for Great Gear!
Search for your product with...
Musician's Friend Power Search
More than a Credit Card
Platinum Card Application
  • Extra Savings
  • Extra Rewards
  • Members-only Deals
  • Reward Point
The Musician's Choice for Great Gear!

Musician's Friend
Now accepting PayPal

Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates.
We cheerfully accept donations!

to advance to the next article
to return to the previous article
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 411, April 1, 2007

Big Head Press