Rights are rights, no matter the label.

Natalie here. This is my first post.

In light of the Michael Vick case, and Vegetarian Awareness Month (October!), I thought I’d make some points on why feminists should care about animal rights. I’m standing on the shoulders of much brighter women and men here, although I’m sparing the point-by-point details in this here list. If anyone is interested in reading more, or wants to know where I got a particular stat or idea, let me know.

A large chunk of what you’re about to read is based on the theories of Carol J. Adams, who pioneered feminist vegetarianism and Peter Singer, a pioneer in animal rights who saw the bridge between human rights and animal rights. I am also ever so grateful to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, whose always enlightening podcast Vegetarian Food For Thought brought me plenty to ponder.

Hopefully these ideas will get others thinking, too.

So the question is, why should feminists care about animal rights? Here are some answers:

(most of these can be used for human rights in general, be they for children, minorities, or classes)

Because violence – serial killing, domestic violence, child abuse – is often accompanied by or starts with animal abuse.

Because, in starving nations, it’s the women and children who suffer the most. By eliminating animal agriculture, and the accompanying suffering of farm animals, we’ll be able to feed more people and lessen the gap between classes in third world nations.

Because feminists especially should know that might doesn’t always make right.

Because we can pick and choose what ancestral behaviors to model our lives on: we don’t have to eat meat just because humans have been for a long time. Heck, we don’t look back even to our grandparents for a model on how to live; we ladies are not barefoot in the kitchen so much these days. Just because our ancestors lived in huts and used rudimentary stone tools doesn’t mean we should; just because we’ve always eaten animals doesn’t mean we always should.

Because the arguments against animal rights sound eerily similar to those used against women’s rights and civil rights and children’s rights. (Animals aren’t as important as humans. Humans are at the top of the food chain – nature/religion says so. Animals are just objects, not beings. Animals are property.)

Because what’s the difference between “boys will be boys” and “humans will be humans”?

Because anyone who has owned a pet knows that animals do feel pain, they do think, they do have social lives, they do have their own set of interests to be accepted and considered.

Because cows mourn the loss of their children just the same as women do.

Because nonhuman females have reproductive rights, too – no female reproductive system has been as exploited as that of the cow. Forced (to put it lightly) into pregnancy, having her child removed within one month of giving birth, being milked several times a day for years, regardless of their grief for their lost young, infection or illness. And don’t get me started on the reproductive exploitation of chickens.

Because “The cruel forms of domesticating animals at the dawn of agricultural society created the technologies and conceptual model for hierarchy, statism, and the exploitative treatment of other human beings, while animal husbandry implanted violence into the heart of human culture. Slavery and the sexual subjugation of women are but the extension of animal domestication to humans, as patriarchy and racism work by reducing women and people of color to subhuman, animal status.” (Source.)

Because, if we’re not working toward equality for human and nonhuman animals, then are we really working toward equality for anyone?

11 thoughts on “Rights are rights, no matter the label.

  1. “By eliminating animal agriculture, and the accompanying suffering of farm animals, we’ll be able to feed more people and lessen the gap between classes in third world nations.”

    Horsefeathers. Hunger is a problem of distribution, not production. There’s plent of food available, those most in need can’t get to it for a variety of reasons.

    As for your other points, well, I feel no sympathy for cows. When wild, cows are vicious carnivores. A herd of wild cattle can skeletonize a man in less than seven minutes.

  2. I agree with TB’s first point, but am also aware that “By eliminating animal agriculture” can benefit the environment. However “serial killing, domestic violence, child abuse – is often accompanied by or starts with animal abuse.” —what does that mean? That the misogynist begins at the bottom of the food chain and works his way to the top? First Animals, then Women, then Men? Misogyny is a social mindset and it can’t be equated to animal rights. Animal rights are important, and one can choose to be a person who cares about animal rights who happens to be feminist as well. I’d go as far as to make parallels between the sex-slave industry and the mass slaughter of animals for meat production, but to equate the two and say that the female situation will improve if the animal one does– sounds a bit simplistic. That poster by itself is intensely sexist. The intention might be to bring women and animals to the level of a human being, but it only seems to succeed in bringing women to the level of animals. Doesn’t make sense to me at all.

  3. 1. Serial killers often have a common trait shown long before they become serial killers: they tortured animals as children and young adults.

    2. Cattle are herbivores.

    3. The poster is sexist; that is the point; it shows the similarity between how western paternalistic culture refers to women and animals in similar terms: chick, pig, ass, bitch, kitty, pussy, dog, doggy style, back, leg man, breast man, ass man, wild, my little lamb chop…

    4. By our high demand for meat and the low profitability of vegetarian products the third world spends resources on an industry that is inherently destructive to ecosystems: e.g. burning down trees to graze cattle leads to permanent erosion and the destruction of the rain forest.

    5. Frankenstein’s monster was a vegetarian.

    6. The most powerful argument for generalization I learned from the book is the concept of fragmentation: by putting only one woman writer in each school book, written by men, we would think only one female writer of history existed; fragmentation has great power, in everyday conversation the skill can be used to chop and dice and butcher the arguments of arrogant short penis-ed men.

    7. I am a man and I eat meat.

    8. “Doesn’t make sense to me at all.” Were you posing a question?

    9. Why comment on a blog about human rights if your just going to crack jokes: because you are the point of the post. Seems the tracer was headed in the wrong direction…

  4. “The poster is sexist; that is the point”

    And a poster like that uses women the same as any sexist advertiser uses women to sell a product or service. Depicting a woman in an exaggerated circumstance of brutality or likening her to ‘lamb chops’ or even a subtle hint at misogyny doesn’t get through to people because women ARE ALREADY represented that way in glamour mags and the like.

  5. You know, I can’t remember if the poster was included with Adams’s book because it’s THEME is sexism or if it IS sexism.

    If it is the former it is art.

    If it is the latter, it requires exposure as such from focus – say, in a book about sexism and sexism’s relation to vegetarianism.

  6. I will never quit eating steak. Or chicken.

    I will never quit drinking milk.

    Kill the animals as fast and painlessly as possible.

    That’s all i have to say.

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  10. I am a female and I care about animal rights. But I’m not, and will not, be a vegetarian. I don’t believe in torturing and abusing animals, but I don’t feel it’s wrong to eat them. We’re at the top of the food chain and have meat-eating teeth. 🙂 It’s not “abusive” if wild predators hunt and kill.

    I believe that industries that raise livestock should do so humanely, and slaughter them humanely. That solves the abuse problem.

    As far as having enough land to feed people all over the world–we already have plenty of fallow land; the government pays people not to grow food to keep the market from depressing. The fact is that it isn’t up to the United States to provide for all people, and although it would be nice for that to happen, the government won’t run a program like that. If you want to feed those who are hungry around the world, you should get some like-minded people together, buy some farms, and grow food to send over. Don’t wait for people to do it for you.

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