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Agenda for a New America
The Politics of Vegetarianism
By: Vasu Murti
Chapter 18 - Movements with a Similar Agenda
1. The right-to-life agenda sounds egalitarian in terms of human rights: all humans have a right to life, and to deny rights to a particular class of humans on an arbitrary criterion such as race, gender, class, handicap, viability, developmental status, IQ, etc. is discrimination.
Right-to-lifers refer to this as a "quality of life" standard.
2. The animal rights movement puts forth an equally egalitarian agenda: all animals have a right to life and liberty. This challenges the traditional right-to-life ethic of membership in the human race as a criterion for personhood as just another form of discrimination: All ethical systems impose some kind of a "quality of life" standard.
3. Both movements consider their cause a form of secular social progress, like the abolition of human slavery or the emancipation of women.
4. Both movements compare themselves to the abolitionists who soughs to end human slavery.
5. Both movements see themselves extending human rights to a disenfranchised class of beings.
6. Both movements claim to be speaking on behalf of a minority group unable to defend themselves from oppression.
7. Both movements compare the mass destruction of the human unborn and the mass slaughter of animals to the Holocaust.
8. Recognizing the rights of another class of beings limits our freedoms and our choices, and requires a change in our personal lifestyle. The abolition of human slavery is a good example of this.
9. Both movements appear to be imposing their own personal moral convictions upon the rest of our secular society.
10. Both movements have components that engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and both have their militant factions. Both have picketed the homes of physicians who either experiment upon animals or perform abortions.
11. Both movements are usually depicted in the popular news media as extremists, fanatics, terrorists, etc. who violate the law.
12. Both movements have their intelligentsia: moral philosophers, physicians, clergymen, legal counsel, etc.
13. Both movements cite studies that violence towards an oppressed class of beings paves the way for worse forms of violence in society -- this is known as the "slippery slope." The term was coined by British writer Malcolm Muggeridge, a "prolife vegetarian."
14. Both movements speak of respecting life and compassion.
15. Both speak of depersonalization: the unborn become "tissue" and animals become "things" or objects of human exploitation and consumption. The depersonalization of women is significant in this regard: the assembly-line nature of modern abortion clinics depersonalizes women in much the same way factory farming depersonalizes animals.
16. A literal interpretation of the Constitution would mean there is no absolute right to individual or marital privacy, and this would allow the government to intervene not just in cases of abortion to protect the life of the unborn, but in all forms of birth control (Griswold vs. Connecticut).
Taking this philosophy to its logical conclusion, we could easily ban all feminine hygiene products (technological innovations which have also given women a great deal of freedom and mobility).
One of the reasons the left wing opposed the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 is because such a literalist interpretation of the Constitution would deny rights to many non-citizens.
Abortion opponents argue that although the 14th Amendment refers to persons as citizens born or naturalized, it has generally come to mean all human beings--otherwise one could justify killing illegal aliens at the border.
"Other nations caught with us in space and time" is the phrase used by animal rights activists to describe other sentient species. If illegal immigrants--who are not citizens and (like embassies in foreign countries)--have fundamental rights such as fife, why not other animals as well?
17 Both movements are thinking of a Constitutional Amendment to extend rights to animals and the unborn respectively.
Go on to Chapter 19 - Political Action
Return to The Politics of Vegetarianism Table of Contents
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