Animal rights nuts live in a world where the line between fact and fiction is blurry, at best. On Planet PETA, for instance, circus elephants aren’t a source of family entertainment, or a fantastic mechanism to prevent the extinction of a vulnerable species. Nooo. Circus elephants are "slaves." And don’t get us started about egg-laying chickens. The Humane Society of the United States believes keeping them in cages, where the odd sick bird can’t infect a few thousand others, is a form of "cruelty." (actual experts at the American Veterinary Medical Association disagree.)
So we’re used to animal rights groups distorting reality in the pursuit of legal "rights" for four-legged creatures. But when they exploit the ghosts of worthy human historical figures and put PETA-approved words in their mouths, they’ve crossed a different sort of line.
We’ve already debunked the animal rights movement’s widespread use of an apocryphal quote misattributed to Leonardo Da Vinci — it’s a lie literally chiseled in stone at the office of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We’ve also established that animal liberationists have twisted the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in order to create the illusion of sympathy for violent radicalism.
Now add Abraham Lincoln to the growing list of famous figures hijacked by the animal rights movement.
Beginning with the 1985 publication of The Extended Circle: A Dictionary of Humane Thought (below, the same book that first flubbed the Da Vinci quote), animal activists have been using and abusing this supposed utterance of Honest Abe — proudly plastering it on shirts and coffee mugs, and citing it in letters to newspaper editors:
from page 179, "The Extended Circle: A Dictionary of Humane Thought"
It would make a compelling story if the Great Emancipator had actually advocated extending his landmark freedom ethos to other species. But he never did. This week we called the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to see if their research staff could authenticate the "quote." Searching Lincoln’s near-comprehensive Collected Works, they found exactly zero mentions of “animal rights.”
We’re not the only ones who suspected post-mortem ventriloquism. The eminent Lincoln scholars Don and Virginia Fehrenbacher have written about it in their Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln. They cite this quote as one of the “undocumented quotations … attaching themselves to Lincoln and gaining currency through repetition.” But they found “no credible evidence” that he ever uttered or wrote these words.
We understand why PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and all of their followers are a bit self-delusional about Honest Abe (who, by the way, ate meat) being with them under the tofu tent. Who wouldn’t want him on their team? But since Leonardo Dr. King, and Abe Lincoln are officially "normal" again, we’re going to have a hard time from now on believing any famous historical figures were ever vegetarians. It’s about time someone did some due-diligence on Thomas Edison, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, and Mahatma Gandhi. And we’re just the research team to do it.