The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement: Rethinking the right to reproduce

August 5, 2013 • Family Planning, News

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement: Rethinking the right to reproduce 


Extrapolating from the roughly 78 million increase in global population each year – some five additional babies per second – it might appear as if our right to procreate were a universal, unquestioned truth to which women of a certain age in possession of good sense must almost always revert. If one wishes to breed and develop progeny, there are few obstacles in the way (maybe even fewer than if one doesn’t wish to do so). And more often than not, when one does make the decision to reproduce, it is celebrated with wholesome cheer as we revel in both our own fertility and often that of distant acquaintances we barely know as well.

As I discovered in my recent interview with him, Les Knight, founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT, pronounced “vehement”), is not one who ascribes to such received wisdom. In fact, he rejects it out of hand, much to the dismay of the vast majority of the breeding age population. Knight’s organisation hasn’t so much rethought breeding rights as entirely overhauled our standard perceptions of them. VHEMT actually argue the case for the natural attrition of the human race to the point of extinction by ceasing procreation entirely in order that the earth’s biosphere can be preserved.

“There are already organisations: Population Connection in the United States, Population Matters in the UK, and various others around the world, which are advocating accessible contraceptives and suggesting people stop at two” Knight explains. But VHEMT’s uncompromising derision of the right to breed can be seen as more radical that each of these peer organisations combined. Whether they are a group of ‘baby-haters’ as some have labeled them is up for discussion. What is beyond doubt is that they are one of the most extreme environmental groups in the world.

“The right to breed is fiercely defended in all of our international agreements on human rights, but the right to not breed is ignored.” Knight says of the philosophical underpinning of VHEMT. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the agreements to which Knight is presumably referring, does include the following Article: “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family” (My emphasis).

The question is why procreation rights seem so entrenched in society, whilst the right to not breed doesn’t share an equivalent position.

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