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Agenda for a New America
The Politics of Vegetarianism
By: Vasu Murti
Chapter 19 - Political Action
In 1989, for example, Presbyterian Minister and environmental activist Richard Cartwright Austin discussed proposals to amend the Constitution:
"It is time to affirm that all creatures within the boundaries of our nation deserve constitutional recognition, and that rights extend beyond the human community to embrace all of natural life. This is the most radical of the proposals because it would give species, natural systems, and natural features constitutional standing and rights of their own--independent of their contributions or lack of contribution, to human welfare.
''To secure their rights within our legal system they would, of course, require human agents willing to argue their case, just as agents now represent the perceived interests of infants, the comatose, and others who cannot speak on their own behalf.
''Corporations, which are legal constructions and not natural beings, have standing in court to protect their interests now. This amendment would grant similar privileges to spotted owls threatened by timbering in the Pacific northwest to marine life in Chesapeake Bay suffering urban and agricultural pollution, and to the beauties of the Yosemite Valley hidden behind too many buildings and vehicles.
"A constitutional amendment to recognize the rights of a vast new constituency--all God's creatures--will not succeed without broad popular support. Animals ask us for considerate treatment and the earth cries for loving care."
Austin's words reflect the rising tide of environmental concern in America and the emergence of an animal liberation theology.
By 1991, seven medical schools in the U. S. had stopped using animals to train their students. In 1991, fur imports and trappings were cut in half. Seventy-five firms stopped using animals to test their products. A Gallup Poll, paid for by the Restaurant Association of the United States, found that one-third of all meals ordered in American restaurants in 1991 were vegetarian.
In 1992, Congressman Ron Dellums called for a halt to all animal experimentation in the military. Presidential candidate Jerry Brown said, "The millions of animals used in scientific experiments should be replaced by other methods." In a letter dated March 26, 1992, Presidential Candidate Bill Clinton wrote to Don A. Jones of Marietta, GA: "Thank you for writing to express your concern for the rights of animals. I have always loved and respected animals and abhorrer any cruelty toward them. Please be assured that a Clinton Administration would be extremely sensitive to these issues and concerns."
Animal rights is gradually becoming a mainstream political issue. In letter dated October 6, 1992, Congressman Pete Stark says he supports H. R. 3918, the Consumer Products Safe Testing Act.
"Animals should be treaded humanely. As I was in the last Congress, I am a co-sponsor of this bill which declares that Federal policy shall encourage the development and use of product testing procedures which accurately reflect the acute health effects on humans of certain products, but...do not rely upon animal testing."
Stark, along with Congressman James Scheuer, is also an original co-sponsor of legislation to ban the use of the steel-jaw leghold trap--banned in over 66 countries. Stark also supports the Endangered Species Act, without weakening its provisions; an immediate ban on the importation of wild-caught birds for the pet trade; a prohibition on sport hunting and trapping in the National wildlife Refuge; non-animal toxicity tests for non-medical products; making medical research more accountable for tax money spent and animals used; and more humane methods of raising animals for food.
Go on to Chapter 20 - Conclusion and
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