Connecting Human Rights and Animal Rights
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM

Veganomics
February 2014

I think itís the right moment to talk about it because it is part of a revolutionary perspective Ė how can we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how can we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet and that would mean challenging the whole capitalist industrial form of food production.

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Image: James Steidl/Shutterstock

In 2014, the animal rights group PETA recently caused a rumpus on twitter on Martin Luther King Day when it posted campaign images of animals featuring quotes from King, as reported by USA Today PETA sparks Twitter backlash with MLK tweets and a number of other news publishers.

A common complaint on twitter as shown in the USA Today article was that PETA was effectively calling black people animals. Its true that PETAís approach is to use controversial actions in order to reach a wide audience through publicity, good and bad, but these comments though are mistaken and completely miss the point. What PETA were attempting to do was to draw parallels between the fight for civil and human rights and the fight for animal rights Ė to show that the allotment of rights is an ethical issue. And its just as preposterous to deny or allow rights based on colour, as in this case, or sexuality, as in the case for gay rights, sex, as the womensí rights movement fights for, or species, as the animal rights movement attempts to do.

The other mistake the twitter complainers make is to assume that the MLK legacy is only about the struggle for equal rights for Afro-Americans. What they probably donít know is that members of Kingís family took his message of justice and nonviolence to the next logical step and applied it to animals. His son Dexter become vegan and in later life his wife Coretta also become vegan in recognition of the similarities of the civil rights and animal rights movement being different sides of the same coin, she also fought for LGBT rights. Dexter has spoken out against circuses calling them ďmodern-day slaveryĒ, and in an interview for Vegetarian Times in 1995 said:

If youíre violent to yourself by putting [harmful] things into your body that violate its spirit, it will be difficult not to perpetuate that [violence] onto someone else.

You can read more about Coretta Scott Kingís views on the connection between animal rights and human rights in an article on the Animal Rights and Anti-Oppression site.

The connection between human rights and animal rights it not lost on other social activists either.

Dick Gregory, the American comedian, social activist, social critic, writer, and entrepreneur wrote in his memoirs:

Under the leadership of Dr. King, I became totally committed to nonviolence, and I was convinced that nonviolence meant opposition to killing in any form. I felt the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill applied to human beings not only in their dealings with each other (war, lynching, assassination, murder and the like) but in their practice of killing animals for food and sport. Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and brutal taking of life.

The political activist Angela Davis is well known for her progressive perspectives on race, gender, but her views on animal rights are less well publicised. In a recent article by Jon Hochschartner published by The Academic Abolitionist Vegan Vegan Angela Davis Connects Human and Animal Liberation, she is quoted as saying:

I think there is a connection between, and I canít go further than this, in the way we treat animals and the way we treat people who are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Look at the ways in which people who commit such violence on other human beings have often learned how to enjoy that by enacting violence on animals. So there are a lot of ways we can talk about this.

The food we eat masks so much cruelty. The fact that we can sit down and eat a piece of chicken without thinking about the horrendous conditions under which chickens are industrially bred in this country is a sign of the dangers of capitalism, how capitalism has colonized our minds. The fact that we look no further than the commodity itself, the fact that we refuse to understand the relationships that underly the commodities that we use on a daily basis. And so food is like that.

I  think itís the right moment to talk about it because it is part of a revolutionary perspective Ė how can we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how can we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet and that would mean challenging the whole capitalist industrial form of food production.

The traffic is also both ways Ė for example the Green Chimurenga blog started out as a vegan blog, and has now evolved to make its main focus African Liberation with veganism as a tool for this aim (see the post Liberation Veganism). As the author says: ďThis is not strictly a veganism blog anymore. We urgently need to discuss African liberation, social justice and human freedom in general and I donít believe veganism is the revolution. Letís discuss political ideology, world-view, current affairs, insights, gender issues, etc. in addition to plant-based living. Iím still a die-hard raw vegan but Iím a die-hard freedom-loving African humanist man first and foremost and that means I want justice and self-determination for black people everywhere and all of humanity, regardless of what they eat.Ē.

There are many for aspects worthy of examination that connect the many fights against oppression and for liberation with animal rights. I hope this article has given you an starting point by looking at one particular aspect.

Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd:

If you want to know where you would have stood on slavery before the Civil War, donít look at where you stand on slavery today. Look at where you stand on animal rights.

Abraham Lincoln:

I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.


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