Animal Writes
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23 September 2001 Issue
Break the Cycle

by Professor Steve Best - [email protected] 

Like all of you, I have watched the recent attacks unfold with grief and horror. Like you, I have heard numerous soul-shaking accounts of survivors and victims as I watched the spectacle of violence with horror. Needless to say, animal rights activists do not rejoice in human suffering, rather we are moved by suffering of any kind. With the big picture in mind, working for animal rights furthers works toward human rights, as our work and lifestyle choices advances the human moral conscience and protects the natural world.

I began my activism in the early 1980s as an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois. In the midst of the Reagan era, the raging civil wars throughout Central America, and the apartheid system in South Africa, I worked fervently on various human rights campaigns. I organized events that raised medical funds for the suffering people of Nicaragua and El Salvador, volunteered to help house and protect refugees fleeing the terror in Central America, participated in anti-apartheid actions, and chaired a committee in solidarity with the Central American people. My activism on behalf of people persisted until the late 1980s when, already a vegetarian, I read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. This book rudely awakened me to the horrors of animal suffering and changed my mind forever; I decided then and there to help the most defenseless victims of violence, the nonhuman animals.

As with every other animal rights activist I know, this doesn’t preclude compassion for human beings, it simply deepens the empathy that already existed from a human rights perspective. The actions that resulted in the terrorist attacks on the United States, and those long-standing policies that provoked them, are rooted in violence. What animal rights people share in common with the human rights community is a condemnation of violence. Ultimately, we are working toward the same goal – an enlightened and compassionate world free of suffering and violence, where all beings share the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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