"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
"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 nonviolence."
"When we turn to the protection of animals, we sometimes hear it said that we ought to protect men first and animals afterwards... By condoning cruelty to animals, we perpetuate the very spirit which condones cruelty to men."
The fate of the animals and the fate of man are interconnected. (Ecclesiastes 3:19) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada said in 1974:
"We simply request, 'Don't kill. Don't maintain slaughterhouses.' That is very sinful. It brings a very awkward karmic reaction upon society. Stop these slaughterhouses. We don't say, 'Stop eating meat.' You can eat meat, but don't take it from the slaughterhouse, by killing. Simply wait (until the animal dies of natural causes) and you'll get the carcasses.
"You are killing innocent cows and other animals--nature will take revenge. Just wait. As soon as the time is right, nature will gather all these rascals and slaughter them. Finished. They'll fight among themselves--Protestants and Catholics, Russia and America, this one and that one. It is going on. Why? This is nature's law. Tit for tat. 'You have killed. Now you kill yourselves.'
"They are sending animals to the slaughterhouse, and now they'll create their own slaughterhouse. You see? Just take Belfast. The Roman Catholics are killing the Protestants, and the Protestants are killing the Catholics. This is nature's law. It is not necessary that you be sent to the ordinary slaughterhouse. You'll make a slaughterhouse at home. You'll kill your own child--abortion. This is nature's law.
"Who are these children being killed? They are these meat-eaters. They enjoyed themselves when so many animals were killed and now they're being killed by their own mothers. People do not know how nature is working. If you kill you must be killed. If you kill the cow, who is your mother, then in some future lifetime your mother will kill you. Yes. The mother becomes the child, and the child becomes the mother.
"We don't want to stop trade, or the production of grains and vegetables and fruit. But we want to stop these killing houses. It is very, very sinful. That is why all over the world they have so many wars. Every ten or fifteen years there is a big war--a wholesale slaughterhouse for humankind. But these rascals--they do not see it, that by the law of karma, every action must have its reaction."
Similarly, in his purport to the Srimad Bhagavatam 6.10.9, Srila Prabhupada writes: "One cannot continue killing animals and at the same time be a religious man. That is the greatest hypocrisy. Jesus Christ said, 'Do not kill,' but hypocrites nevertheless maintain thousands of slaughterhouses while posing as Christians. Such hypocrisy is condemned..."
"If one kills many thousands of animals in a professional way so that other people can purchase the meat to eat, one must be ready to be killed in a similar way in his next life and in life after life. There are many rascals who violate their own religious principles. According to Judeo-Christian scriptures, it is clearly said, 'Thou shalt not kill.' Nonetheless, giving all kinds of excuses, even the heads of religions indulge in killing animals while trying to pass as saintly persons. This mockery and hypocrisy in human society brings about unlimited calamities; therefore occasionally there are great wars. Masses of such people go out onto battlefields and kill themselves. Presently, they have discovered the atomic bomb, which is simply waiting to be used for wholesale destruction."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 24.251, purport)
"To be nonviolent to human beings and to be a killer or enemy of the poor animals is Satan's philosophy. In this age there is enmity towards poor animals, and therefore the poor creatures are always anxious. The reaction of the poor animals is being forced on human society, and therefore there is always the strain of cold or hot war between men, individually, collectively or nationally."
(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.10.6, purport)
"In human society, if one kills a man he has to be hanged. That is the law of the state. Because of ignorance people do not perceive that there is a complete state controlled by the Supreme Lord. Every living creature is the son of the Supreme Lord, and He does not tolerate even an ant's being killed. One has to pay for it."
In his 1987 booklet, The New Abolitionists: Animal Rights and Human Liberation, subtitled, "An introduction to the ascendant animal rights movement, framed in the historical context of human emancipation and explained in the terminology of progressive thought and politics," B.R. Boyd similarly writes:
"With more and more people sensing connections between the looming global violence of environmental collapse and thermonuclear war, on the one hand, and our various 'localized' or specific violences of child abuse, sexual assault, class exploitation, etc., on the other, the message of the animal rights movement echoes an ancient Chinese Buddhist saying:
"If you wish to know
"Why there are disasters
"Of armies and weapons in the world
"Listen to the piteous cries
"From the slaughterhouse at midnight"
"Whether viewed spiritually as karma or in secular, psychological terms as the natural result of our individual and collective psychic numbing to the suffering we inflict, it does seem that our violence comes back to haunt us -- as we have sown, so are we reaping -- and that the roots of our ecological and nuclear dilemma reach deep into our history and our psychology.
"It seems increasingly clear that a thoroughgoing solution to the big problems we face will require a radical change in many of our ways of thinking and feeling and being in the world. Radical ecofeminism and some other wholistic perspectives are teaching us that an integral part of that change lies in learning to balance our intellect -- including clear-headed analysis, which is essential -- with our emotions, integrating head and heart, and developing circular and complete relationships with the earth and her creatures, as contrasted with the separated, linear patterns and the absolute primacy of intellect over feeling and intuition that seem to typify Western patriarchal thinking."
Pythagoras warned: "Those who kill animals for food will be more prone than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men."
"When we turn to the protection of animals, we sometimes hear it said that we ought to protect men first and animals afterwards...By condoning cruelty to animals, we perpetuate the very spirit which condones cruelty to men."
George T. Angell, founder of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said, “I am sometimes asked, ‘Why do you spend time and money talking about kindness to animals when there is cruelty to men?’ I answer: ‘I am working at the roots.’”
"The vegetarian movement," wrote Count Leo Tolstoy, "ought to fill with gladness the souls of all those who have at their heart the realization of God's Kingdom on earth."
In a 1979 essay entitled "Abortion and the Language of Unconsciousness," contemporary Hindu spiritual master Ravindra-svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler) explains Srila Prabhupada's words in terms of a secular slippery slope argument, familiar to pro-lifers:
"A (spiritually) conscious person will not kill even animals (much less very young humans) for his pleasure or convenience. Certainly the unconsciousness and brutality that allows us to erect factories of death for animals lay the groundwork for our treating humans in the same way."
Animals are like children. If you can't see toddlers as persons, how will you ever see zygotes and embryos as persons?
A quote attributed to Ingrid Newkirk, Executive Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is: "I don't care about abortion. I only care about sentient life."
I'm pro-life, but I do see her point. If we can't respect sentient life, how will we ever respect insentient life (trees, embryos, etc.) ?
In the March 1982 issue of Back to Godhead, another contemporary Hindu spiritual master, Srila Hridayananda dasa Goswami (Dr. Howard Resnick), comments on this shortcoming of the anti-abortion movement:
Insisting that human life begins at conception, the anti-abortion movement seeks to shock us into the awareness that abortion means killing--killing a human being rather than an animal, a bird, an insect, or a fish.
"Thus although the movement calls itself 'pro-life,' it is really 'pro-human-life.' Its fudging with the terms 'life' and 'human life' reveals a disturbing assumption: that nonhuman life is somehow not actually life at all, or, if it is, then it is somehow not as 'sacred' as human life and therefore not worth protecting....
"If the pro-life movement can become part of a broader struggle to recognize the sacredness of all life...then undoubtedly it will attain great success."
No lay practitioner of bhakti-yoga nor ordained (initiated) with lifelong vows can take a stand against the killing of the unborn without simultaneously taking a stand against the killing of animals for food, clothing, sport, etc.
In the April 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a peace and justice periodic on the religious left, Catholic civil rights activist Bernard Broussard similarly concludes:
"...our definition of war is much too limited and narrow. Wars and conflicts in the human kingdom will never be abolished or diminished until, as a pure matter of logic, it includes the cessation of war between the human and animal kingdoms.
"For, if we be eaters of flesh, or wearers of fur, or participants in hunting animals, or in any way use our might against weakness, we are promoting, in no matter how seemingly insignificant a fashion, the spirit of war.'"
The "might makes right" mentality that makes abortion possible begins with what we humans do to other animals.