The title of my own blog offends me. I want to be able to celebrate this man’s life, not so much for his contribution to science and thought, but because his accomplishments demonstrate that no matter what challenges any of us may face, we all have within us a store of talent and power if we could only find the courage to let it shine. I spent three months in a wheelchair, a wholly-incapacitated quadriplegic, and question whether I would have found the strength to live a productive life if that turned out to be a permanent condition. For this reason, because of everything that I want to believe this man’s life should exemplify, that I find his wanton celebration of human privilege so contemptible, especially his advocacy for animal experimentation. He was nothing more than an apologist for nonhuman genocide.
In 1998, Hawking said,
“the fuss of the use of animals in research is ridiculous. Why is it worse to use animal experiments to save lives than to eat them, which the majority of the population are happy to do?”
While he looked to physics to explain the complexities of the universe, it seems he was fairly vacant in observing the most basic practicalities of life — that all animals feel pain; all life exists on its own merit and not simply to benefit the human species. And his hubris demonstrates that no matter what challenges any person may face, we all share a birthright of human privilege — an artificial construct of our species. Maybe Hawking did, in fact, realize that animals suffer and just didn’t care because he, too, was happy to just eat their flesh. He is said to have signed a petition which acknowledges nonhuman and human animals experience consciousness in the same way.
A long-time critic of defunding the NIH, Hawking’s position as an influential thinker lends credence to vivisectors or any other deviant to carve up and abuse animals as they see fit — for fun, for profit, for their alleged science; essentially classifying nonhumans as objects. And when he speaks about saving lives, clearly the only form of life with which he seemed concerned was that of his own kind; Stephen Hawking was a bigot — a speciesist, no different from any garden-variety racist or homophobe.
Perhaps the ignorance in which this genius reveled was never more apparent than when he said,
“I suspect that extremists turn to animal rights from a lack of the more worthwhile causes of the past, like nuclear disarmament.”
Again, his only sphere of consideration or concern is the human experience. I am unaware of any statement denouncing those who fight against child sex slavery or world hunger or any suggestion that they need to find something better to do with their time. In a universe where enslaving, torturing, murdering, and eating the bodies of nonhuman animals is considered normal, there is no other option than to war against the status quo; against Hawking’s own bigotry. If fighting against the extraordinary violence society visits upon nonhuman animals makes one an extremist, then sign me up.
While vivisectors, academics, and scientists celebrate the life of Stephen Hawking, let’s not forget that his contribution to the struggle for Animal Liberation was solely to denigrate it and every freedom fighter who has ever risked their lives and freedom for justice. Let those with blood on their hands mourn. Because the animals certainly don’t need another apologist for their genocide. And neither do I.