I agree with nearly everything you've written! On USENET, somewhere between 1986 and 1988, on one of the discussion groups on religion, there was severe criticism leveled at the crimes committed in the name of religion throughout history. One net user commented, however, that he couldn't think of, or find anything, negative to say about the Jains! A Hindu net user, similarly wrote me via e-mail about Jains who remained nonviolent while suffering persecution at the hands of Saivite kings.
Instead of beginning with the premise that the Bible and/or the Judeo-Christian tradition is inerrant, let's start with the premise that animal cruelty, like child molestation, is always wrong. If there is a religion that condones it, that religion must be questioned, just as we would question a religion that condones human sacrifice.
Religious scholars like Dr. Richard Schwartz and Reverend Andrew Linzey still serve a purpose in this regard. By focusing on "compassionate stewardship" over brutal "dominion," etc. they help make the animals' agenda appear less radical and more palatable to mainstream society.
"Although I may disagree with some of its underlying principles," writes pro-life activist Karen Swallow Prior, "there is much for me, an anti-abortion activist, to respect in the animal rights movement. Animal rights activists, like me, have risked personal safety and reputation for the sake of other living beings. Animal rights activists, like me, are viewed by many in the mainstream as fanatical wackos, ironically exhorted by irritated passerby to ‘Get a life!’
"Animal rights activists, like me, place a higher value on life than on personal comfort and convenience and, in balancing the sometimes competing interests of rights and responsibilities, choose to err on the side of compassion and non-violence."
Kathleen Marquardt, founded Putting People First, an anti-animal rights group. In her 1993 book, Animal Scam: The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights, she says:
"The real agenda of this 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." Identical assertions could have been made about the abolition of human slavery, the crusade to end child labor, the liberation of concentration camp prisoners from Nazi physicians or an end to the experimentation upon black humans by white humans.
Marquardt writes that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) "now encourages vegetarianism, the banning of fur, and the eventual end to all animal research, not just ‘cruel’ animal research." Marquardt writes that the Humane Society now supports vegetarianism.
According to Marquardt, "The typical animal rights activist is a white woman making about $30,000 a year. She is most likely a schoolteacher, nurse, or government worker. She usually has a college degree or even an advanced degree, is in her thirties or forties, and lives in a city."
Marquardt cites studies indicating that animal rights activists tend to identify with liberal causes such as feminism and environmentalism.
"Every year," writes the Reverend Andrew Linzey, author of Christianity and the Rights of Animals, "I receive hundreds of anguished letters from Christians who are so distressed by the insensitivity to animals shown by mainstream churches that they have left them or are on the verge of doing so." It is not surprising, therefore, that Marquardt reports that "Most activists share a bias against Western civilization and its Judeo-Christian foundations."
According to Marquardt, the "political clout" of the animal rights movement "is surprisingly bipartisan. But most of the leading politicians working with the animal rights movement are liberal Democrats." Marquardt makes mention of Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Nevada Congressman Jim Bilbray, Charlie Rose of North Carolina, Tom Lantos and Gerry Studds.
Marquardt admits, however, that "some Republicans are animal rightists, too. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas often supports animal rights causes—except, of course, those pertaining to cattle, a major business in Kansas. Senator Robert Smith of New Hampshire was a founder of the Congressional Friends of Animals. Bob Dornan of California, one of the most conservative House members, is an animal rights advocate—he cosponsored legislation banning the use of animals in testing cosmetics and received a PETA award. And Manhattan Congressman Bill Green promoted legislation that would have shut down over 90 million acres of federal land to hunting, fishing, and trapping."
Marquardt states further that "Although he’s not an elected official, a conservative political figure who, surprisingly, is on the other side is G. Gordon Liddy, author Will and a key figure in the 1972 Watergate uproar. When I went on Liddy’s radio show, he and PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk greeted each other with hugs and kisses and lots of warm words.
"With allies in both political parties and across the ideological spectrum," concludes Marquardt, "the animal rights movement has been able to score some great successes, regardless of which party controls the White House or Capitol Hill."
Kathleen Marquardt unsuccessfully tries to equate animal rights with Nazism in Animal Scam. She claims that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, and that he suffered from depression, mood swings, irritability, and agitation, all of which are symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency, and that animal products are the only dietary source of vitamin B-12.
According to Carol Orsag, in Irving Wallace and David Wallechinsky’s The People’s Almanac (1975), however, Adolf Hitler "became vegetarian because of stomach problems" rather than out of compassion for animals, and "was criticized for eating pig’s knuckles."
In a 1996 article, "Nazis and Animals: Debunking the Myths," originally appearing in the Animals' Agenda, Roberta Kalechofsky of Jews for Animal Rights states that Hitler "had a special fondness for sausages and caviar, and sometimes ham," as well as "liver dumplings." Kalechofsky states further that the Nazis experimented on animals as well as humans in the concentration camps:
"The evidence of Nazi experiments on animals is overwhelming. In The Dark Face of Science, author John Vyvyan summed it up correctly: ‘The experiments made on prisoners were many and diverse, but they had one thing in common: all were in continuation of, or complementary to, experiments on animals. In every instance, this antecedent scientific literature is mentioned in the evidence, and at Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps, human and animal experiments were carried out simultaneously as parts of a single programme.’"
Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, became a vegetarian in 1962. He once asked, "How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy? How can we speak of rights and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood?"
Hitler’s so-called "vegetarianism" did not prevent Isaac Bashevis Singer from comparing humanity’s mass killing of 50 billion animals every year to the Nazi Holocaust. In 1987 he wrote, "This is my protest against the conduct of the world. To be a vegetarian is to disagree—to disagree with the course of things today. Nuclear power, starvation, cruelty—we must make a statement against these things. Vegetarianism is my statement. And I think it’s a strong one."
Isaac Bashevis Singer has also expressed the view that unnecessary violence against animals by human beings will only lead to further violence in human society: "I personally believe that as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace. There is only one little step from killing animals to creating gas chambers a’ la Hitler and concentration camps a’ la Stalin—all such deeds are done in the name of ‘social justice.’ There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is."
Professor Henry Bigelow observed: "There will come a time when the world will look back to modern vivisection in the name of science as they do now to burning at the stake in the name of religion."
Animal rights, as a secular, moral philosophy, may appear to be at odds with traditional religious thinking (e.g., human "dominion" over other animals), but this is equally true of democracy and representative government in place of the divine right of kings, the separation of church and state, the abolition of human slavery, the emancipation of women, birth control, the sexual revolution, lesbian and gay rights, and perhaps all social progress since the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment.
Some of the greatest figures in human history have been in favor of ethical vegetarianism and animal rights. These include: Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, Alice Walker, George Bernard Shaw, Robert Browning, Percy Shelley, Voltaire, Thomas Hardy, Rachel Carson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Victor Hugo, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pythagoras, Susan B. Anthony, Albert Schweitzer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Gertrude Stein, Frederick Douglass, Francis Bacon, William Wordsworth, the Buddha, Mark Twain, and Henry David Thoreau.
Abraham Lincoln once said: "I care not for a man’s religion whose dog or cat are not the better for it." Some of the most distinguished figures in the history of Christianity were vegetarian. A partial list includes: St. James, St. Matthew, Clemens Prudentius, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, Aegidius, St. Benedict, Boniface, St. Richard of Wyche, St. Filippo Neri, St. Columba, John Wray, Thomas Tryon, John Wesley, Joshua Evans, William Metcalfe, General William Booth, Ellen White, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, and Reverend V.A. Holmes-Gore.