DAY 336: I HAVE A DREAM… THAT ONE DAY BADGERS WILL NOT BE SHOT
Does this blog title belittle Martin Luther King’s speech?
Perhaps. Perhaps not.
A while ago I mentioned to an animal rights activist that I found some of the people involved in the various marches against animal abuse a little…how can I say, full on. Sometimes hard to bear
‘Be careful what you say.’
‘It could damage the movement’
It never really occurred to me that animal rights is a movement. I suppose it is. But still, it was a strange realisation to me.
Animal rights. As worthy as human rights?
With the recent coverage of the anniversary of Martin Luther Kings ‘I have a dream’ speech it occurred to me more than ever that animal rights – more so than animal welfare – is a global movement for change with parallels to so many other human rights movements history
Yet as soon as we make comparisons between animal right and human rights- whether to the emancipation of women, blacks or jews – we provoke outrage. ‘How dare you compare the treatment of black slaves to animals!’ ‘How dare you refer to the killing of factory animals as a ‘holocaust’!’ and so on.
But this controversy rests entirely on the deep assumption that animals are of less moral worth than humans. And you can’t argue against animal rights by assuming that they are inferior in the first place. It was not so long ago that the arguments for women’s emancipation met with similar derision on the basis that ‘if they give women the vote they’ll give animals the vote next’.The painful fact is that specieism – the valuing of one species over another, ie.humans over animals, for no other reason than due to the furriness of their skin – is essentially no different from racism or sexism.
Peter Singer – a hero of mine, but reluctantly so
I’ve made a point throughout this year of giving logic and reason the passenger seat whilst letting my heart take the wheel. Hence the sometimes bumpy ride off track. Nevertheless I have (reluctantly) been deeply impressed by the so called ‘bible’ of animal rights ‘Animal Liberation’ by Peter Singer in whcih he argues for animals’ moral consideration from a purely logical point of view.
He makes one powerful point that has burnt a painful hole in my mind. He argues that you cannot be against racism and also eat meat without being morally and logically inconsistent.
Wow. Swallow that with your bacon.
Singer argues that we should attribute moral worth to all sentient beings not according to intelligence, strength or beauty – if we did we might let all the unintelligent, weak, ugly people die whichcould include slaughtering a fair number of disabled people (see…look how riled you are) – but rather we should attribute moral worth according to whether that individual can suffer. It is equally wrong to cause unnecessary pain to a white man as it is to a black woman, an asian child or a frog.
If the frog in that list stands out, you have to ask yourself why. Probably because you instinctively consider the frog as fundamentally different category of moral concern. Singer urges that the perceived moral divide between species is as illusory as it was between women and men a hunded years ago or between black and whites some fifty years ago in segregated America. It can and should be crossed.
So if you watched the Martin Luther King coverage with a sense of ‘thank goodness we don’t have that any more’. I’m afraid we still do. The divide between man and animal is just as bad, if not worse, than that between blacks and whites a few decades ago.
We all need to dream that one day it will change