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Pleading the Fifth

Growing up in New York in the 1950s, the closest I came to an animal rights' issue was to order my cheeseburger medium-well rather than rare. Truth be known, Gregory Peck, playing Captain Ahab in the Walt Disney movie "Moby Dick" convinced me that harpooning a whale was the shortest route to manhood this side of John Wayne.

My father's influence - he would order a steak when we ate out by telling the waiter "show it a match and drive it in here" - didn't foster much concern about species going extinct in the rain forest. And my uncle, a New York cop, would talk about the "crazies" who threw paint on fur coats as if they were aliens from another planet.

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Baby, I've come a long way.

Extinction is no longer a word I equate with the Dodo. I've seen and photographed endangered species. Paint-throwing animal-rights fundamentalists may be "crazies," but I share their point that intelligence and emotion are not something two-legged critters monopolize.

Brad Knickerbocker's riveting article (right) about the evolving legal rights of animals examines how far all of us have come - and how much further we're likely to go - as we consider our role as top of the food chain among some 10 million to 13 million species on planet Earth. I trust readers will find our coverage helps them cut through the sound bites, showmanship, and blatant ideology on display about animal-rights issues in Seattle this week at the World Trade Organization meeting.

William Wordsworth, in musing why we love another human being, says it's because we recognize "A Being breathing thoughtful breath." That same recognition now connects me to the reality of many animals.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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