Animal Rights (AR) is a social justice movement based on the premise that animals exist for their own purposes. They are not here to entertain us, clothe us, feed us or provide us with their bodies for experimentation. They are our neighbors, not our property. The movement asks for very little on behalf of the animals – merely that we treat with kindness the animals who we domesticated and that we leave wild animals alone.
The treatment of animals is a great disconnect in the world today. We oppose animal cruelty in theory, but we support it in practice. We know that our lifestyle contributes to animal abuse, but we find ways to rationalize it in order to maintain our behavior. We turn a blind eye to the disturbing evidence because bearing witness would force us to take action. We protect and make sacrifices for our dogs and cats, but we ignore the plight of billions of abused cows, chickens, pigs and fish. If we want to live in a humane society, then we must do what we know is right, even if it is inconvenient or requires a change in behavior. As the philosopher Albert Schweitzer said, “Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”
Animal Rights is different from any social justice movement that preceded it. Unlike women, African Americans and LGBTs, animals can’t organize, protest, lobby, defend themselves or engage in civil disobedience. They have no voice of their own and are totally dependent on us to fight on their behalf. Animal Rights activists also differ because we are not fighting for own rights, but for the rights of others, sometimes at the expense of our own freedom, safety and financial security.
The growing public awareness of the mistreatment of animals coupled with the void created by other social justice movements that have already peaked have enabled Animal Rights to emerge as the social justice movement of our time. We must seize on the attention and interest to advocate for animals now.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi