Choice Versus Rights
From The Writings of
Vasu Murti

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vm@vasumurti.org

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Choice Versus Rights

R.S.wrote:

I like to put it in terms of people having a choice, but that choice should be based on basic religious values...

I'm a bit uncomfortable with this approach. 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. Why write books like "The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery," or "Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust," if killing animals for food, sport, clothing, etc. is merely a "choice"?

Perhaps it's because of the uncomfortable similarity with the abortion issue, that animal rights activists don't want to appear to be saying, "Animals have the right to life. Killing (and eating) them is not a matter of choice." But animal activists have shown themselves to be "anti-choice," depending upon the issue.

A letter in The Animals' Voice Magazine, for example, states: "Exit polls in Apsen, Colorado, after the failed 1989 fur ban was voted on, found that most people were against fur but wanted people to have a choice to wear it. Instead of giving in, we should take the offensive and state in no uncertain terms that to abuse and kill animals is wrong, period! There is no choice because another being had to suffer to produce that item...an eventual ban on fur would be impossible if we tell people that they have some sort of 'choice' to kill...remember, no one has the right to choose death over life for another being."

Similarly, a letter in Veg-News reads: "I did have some concerns about (the) Veg Psych column which asserted that we must respect a non-vegan's 'right to choose' her/his food. While I would never advocate intolerance (quite the opposite actually), arguing that we have a 'right to choose' when it comes to eating meat, eggs, and dairy is akin to saying we have a 'right to choose' to beat dogs, harass wildlife, and torture cats. Each is a clear example of animal cruelty, whether we're the perpetrators ourselves, or the ones who pay others to commit the violence on our behalf. Clearly, we have the ability to choose to cause animal abuse, but that doesn't translate into a right to make that choice."

Shouldn't vegetarianism or veganism be compulsory, or is it a matter of choice? I think the answer to this question lies in how we view ourselves. Are we or aren't we abolitionists first and foremost? Again, why write books like "The Dreaded Comparison" or "Eternal Treblinka," if killing animals for food, clothing, sport, etc. is merely a "choice"?  "Choice" implies it makes no difference either way, which option one chooses.

Again, perhaps it's because of the uncomfortable similarity with the abortion issue that some animal activists are unwilling to insist that vegetarianism or veganism should be compulsory. In an interview with Dennis Prager, Ingrid Newkirk admitted that the animal rights movement is divided over the abortion issue; this will change IF pro-lifers get involved in the struggle for animal rights.

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