Kathleen Marquardt — founder of the ridiculously redundant organization, Putting People First, and author of Animal Scam: The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights — vents hysterically in her apocalyptic warning to fellow speciesists: “The real agenda of [the animal rights] movement is not to give rights to animals, but to take rights from people—to dictate our food, clothing, work, recreation, and whether we will discover new medications or die.”
Marquardt rehearses a standard objection, which approaches animal rights as if it were a zero sum game where advances for nonhuman animals spell losses for humans. fails to see that for the most part (the Animal Liberation Front, the Animal Rights Militia, and other underground groups aside) the animal rights movement adopts legal tactics with the goal to educate and persuade, not force, people to adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle. Hardly against medical progress, moreover, animal rights advocates advance strong critiques of biomedical research and offer concrete and viable alternatives to testing and experimenting on animals.
Moreover, Marquardt erects a false dichotomy and fails to grasp that a movement wanting to confer basic rights on animals has to take certain “rights” from humans. Acting as if some devious and exception principle is in play here, Marquardt forgets that no freedom is absolute, and that a liberty is legitimately curtailed where it harms or violates the liberty of another. The same speciesist objections Marquardt levels against the animal rights movement could just as well have been used against campaigns to abolish human slavery, end child labor, and stop Nazi experimentation on humans.
Slavemasters and Nazis lost their so-called rights, and so too should animal exploiters. Apologists for animal exploitation fear and loath animal rights because they know it spells the end of their corrupt livelihoods and demented traditions, and has radical implications for society as a whole (I dealt with the fallout of the ban on cockfighting in my own rural New Mexico area).
Animal exploiters who complain that the animal rights movement seeks to take away their freedoms are entirely correct – we want a world without fur coats, circus elephants, and steaks. Acting as if some devious and totalitarian plan is at work here, they fail to note that no freedom is absolute and rights and liberties properly end where they infringe on the rights and liberties of another subject. Slave masters and Nazis lost their so-called rights, and so too should animal exploiters. The seemingly personal choice of eating meat is in fact a profoundly moral action, in that it affects the interests and life of another being.
I debated a noted anarchist on these points (links below) He argued veganism is an authoritarian imposition on the new “enlightened” postcapitalist collective. I responded it is consensual, the result of real education and serious ethics; and is no more authoritarian to forbid that any other kind of violence, allowing for debate over “special cases” such as alleged “survival cultures. Banning meat consumption and murder of nonhuman animal innocents is no different than other censuring practices, only speciesist thinking makes it seem so. The new society should ban violence. Period. Ban prejudice and discrimination. Period. Ban hierarchical domination. Period. If not, what are we fighting for? Nothing I’d die for.