By Jonathon Van Maren
“There is a healthy and an unhealthy love of animals: and the nearest definition of the difference is that the unhealthy love of animals is serious,” G.K. Chesterton wrote in his 1920 book of essays The Uses of Diversity. “I am quite prepared to love a rhinoceros, with reasonable precautions: he is, doubtless, a delightful father to the young rhinoceroses. But I will not promise not to laugh at a rhinoceros…I will not worship an animal. That is, I will not take an animal quite seriously: and I know why.”
The reason, wrote Chesterton, is serious: “Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.”
I have always been a lover of animals, and I am generally in favor of conservation measures. The great conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton has a brilliant chapter in his book How to Be A Conservative on conservation, and acclaimed pro-life author Wendell Berry has spent a lifetime advocating environmental causes. There is nothing wrong with animal protections or environmental measures—unless, as Chesterton pointed out, the love of soulless beasts takes precedent over humans—and leads us to a dark and ugly place.