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Pro-lifers: Just Join PETA!

I'll be honest with you: we humans can't end abortion (or war) until we cease to kill animals.

Religious pro-lifers claim they don't have to "work," but aren't they "working" to protect the unborn?

We see pro-lifers lobbying Congress; signing online petitions; contributing financially to right-to-life groups; educating the American people, the American public and the younger generation on life issues; engaging in political activism; engaging in activities that require effort, with a specific result (e.g., greater protection of the unborn) intended as the desired outcome.

If faith in Jesus is all that's required, why are pro-lifers struggling or engaging in "work" to end abortion?  Why doesn't the abortion crisis magically go away as soon as one accepts Jesus as one's Lord and Saviour?

Beyond mere faith in Jesus, we see religious pro-lifers engaging in religious activity: praying for an end to the abortion crisis; 40 Days For Life of Prayer and Fasting; the Walk For Life, etc.

Again: if faith in Jesus is all that's required, why do pro-lifers have to struggle, or engage in effort or "work" to end abortion?

Legal abortion is promoted in China, and we now see a gender imbalance of 37 million more males than females in China, due to sex-selective abortion.

Ending abortion in China would end the gender imbalance.

Whether expressed in terms of karma (action and reaction) or a secular slippery slope argument familiar to pro-lifers, clearly, there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship: allowing one social injustice to flourish results inevitably in other social injustices.

Please consider these other direct cause-and-effect relationships:

The Worldwatch Institute estimates one pound of steak from a steer raised in a feedlot costs:  five pounds of grain, a whopping 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about 34 pounds of topsoil.

Thirty-three percent of our nation's raw materials and fossil fuels go into livestock destined for slaughter.  In a vegan economy, only two percent of our resources will go to the production of food.

"It seems disingenuous for the intellectual elite of the first world to dwell on the subject of too many babies being born in the second- and third-world nations while virtually ignoring the overpopulation of cattle and the realities of a food chain that robs the poor of sustenance to feed the rich a steady diet of grain-fed meat."

--Jeremy Rifkin, pro-life AND pro-animal author, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, and president of the Greenhouse Crisis Foundation

According to the editors of World Watch, July/August 2004:

"The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future--deforestization, topsoil erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.

Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, similarly says in the February 1995 issue of Harmony:  Voices for a Just Future (a peace and justice periodical on the religious left):

"...the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging -- to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets to pigs and chickens and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer."

Is ending abortion "work"? Or is it merely ceasing to do evil, as the prophet Isaiah (1:11,15) says, when quoting God Himself attacking animal sacrifice?

Opponents of global warming, global hunger, the energy, environmental, population and water crises aren't offended when told veganism (ceasing to kill animals) is the solution to each of their respective crises.

Perhaps it's time pro-lifers take a serious look at animal rights as THE political strategy for ending the abortion crisis!

(Even with sentience, rather than species membership, as the criterion for personhood, most abortions would have to be prohibited.)

I understand Christians aren't interested in being "converted" to another 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 monarchy and belief in 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; LGBT rights...

...all social progress since the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment...social progress even conservative Christians take for granted!

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.

In a 1989 interview with the now-defunct Animals' Agenda, Reverend Andrew Linzey, an Anglican clergyman, said:

"We treat animals today precisely as we treated slaves, and the theological arguments are often entirely the same or have the same root. I believe the movement for animal rights is the most significant movement in Christianity, morally, since the emancipation of the slaves. And it provides just as many difficulties for the institutional church..."

The International Network for Religion and Animals was founded in 1985. Since then, numerous books have been written on animals and theology, including: The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ: the Pacifism, Communalism and Vegetarianism of Primitive Christianity; Food for the Spirit: Vegetarianism and the World Religions; The Souls of Animals; Replenish the Earth; Of God and Pelicans; Is God A Vegetarian?; God's Covenant with Animals; They Shall not Hurt or Destroy; The Lost Religion of Jesus; Good News for All Creation;Vegetarian Christian Saints; The Dominion of Love; Good Eating; Of God and Dogs; Every Creature a Word of God; School of Compassion, etc.

All of this biblical scholarship by Christian vegetarians and vegans (and their friends in the non-Abrahamic faiths), trying to reconcile biblical tradition with animal rights, would be unnecessary if the other side would treat animal rights as a secular civil rights issue applicable to **everyone** -- including atheists and agnostics -- as they view their own (sectarian?) opposition to abortion.

Nor is anyone preventing pro-life Christians from listening to the vegetarian and vegan voices (past and present) in their own biblical tradition.

In the April 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a peace and justice periodical on the religious left, Catholic civil rights activist Bernard Broussard 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."

Nor is anyone preventing pro-life Christians from listening to vegetarians and vegans throughout history!

The Table of Contents to Rynn Berry's 1993 book, Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes: Lives & Lore from Buddha to the Beatles, includes:

Pythagoras; Gautama the Buddha; Mahavira; Plato (and Socrates); Plutarch; Leonardo the Vinci; Percy Shelley; Count Leo Tolstoy; Annie Besant; Mohandas Gandhi; George Bernard Shaw; Bronson Alcott; Adventist physician Dr. John Harvey Kellogg; Henry Salt; Frances Moore Lappe; Isaac Bashevis Singer; Malcolm Muggeridge, and Brigid Brophy.

Nor is anyone preventing pro-life Christians from listening to secular vegetarians and vegans today!

"A world of authors, philosophers, and scientists -- including Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, St. Francis of Assisi, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, and Alice Walker -- are or were vegetarians. Nowadays, there are countless celebrities -- actors, writers, athletes, thinkers -- who have embraced the ecological sanity and compassion of the vegetarian diet.

"A number of these people have been outspoken. Among celebrity vegetarians are:

"Film stars Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Brad Pitt, Richard Gere, Jude Law, Josh Hartnett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, Ryan Gosling, Kim Basinger, and Dustin Hoffman.

"Recording artists Dr. Dre, the B52s, Paul and the late Linda McCartney, Chrissie Hynde, Joaquin Phoenix, Andre3000 Meatloaf, Peter Gabriel, kd lang, Elvis Costello, and Melissa Etheridge.

"Models Brooke Shields, Christy Turlington, Cindy Jackson, and Christie Brinkley.

"Sports stars Hank Aaron; B.J. Armstrong, Andreas Cahling, Sally Eastall, Sylvia Cranston, Chris Campbell, Aaron Pryor, Edward Moses, Robert de Castella, Anton Innauer, and Killer Kowalski."

--excerpted from The Higher Taste: A Guide to Gourmet Vegetarian Cooking and a Karma-Free Diet (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust: 2006).

Nor is anyone preventing these Christians from joining any number of secular animal rights and welfare organizations: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); In Defense of Animals (IDA); Friends of Animals (FoA); Last Chance for Animals; Mercy for Animals; Vegan Action; Vegan Outreach, etc.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is challenging those who think they can still be "meat-eating environmentalists" to go vegan, if they really care about the planet.

peta2 is now the largest youth movement of any social change organization in the world.

peta2 has 267,000 friends on MySpace and 91,000 Facebook fans.

A few years ago, PETA was the top-ranked charity when a poll asked teenagers which nonprofit group they would most want to work for. PETA won by more than a two to one margin over the second place finisher, The American Red Cross, with more votes than the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity combined.

Pete Cohn of Veggie Jews (in San Francisco, CA) once told me Rabbi Michael Lerner (founder, Network of Spiritual Progressives) focuses on Palestinian issues, not animal rights! But in November 2007 (shortly before moving to Israel), Pete said to me, "PETA's not Jewish."

Secular arguments (religion-neutral) apply to everyone, including atheists and agnostics.

Your freedoms are limited by someone else's rights. You no longer have the "freedom of choice" to lynch blacks or commit domestic violence, or hate crimes against LGBTs.

Liberals concede abortion is not merely a "religious" issue, but a secular human rights issue, admitting, "We might be violating someone else's rights."

Few conservatives admit we're violating the self-evident rights of billions of animals every day! They obsess over the silent screams of the unborn, while ignoring the very real screams of animals. They obsess over protecting mentally handicapped children while silent about experiments on chimpanzees.

Religious pro-lifers dictate to those outside of their faith... but react with disbelief ("God!") when told it's wrong to kill animals.

If their interpretation of Christianity "exempts" these Christians from protecting animals, are pro-choice Christians similarly exempt from protecting the unborn?

If you carry pro-life Christian sectarianism to its logical conclusion, religious pro-lifers can't oppose abortion, either, if someone else's religion permits it!

Christians rarely approach people of other faiths to discuss serious moral issues. We rarely hear Christians ask Hindus:

"The Bhagavad-gita is one of the world's great scriptures, like the Bible or the Koran. And you believe in karma and reincarnation. What's your take on things? What kind of strategy should we be pursuing to end the abortion crisis? Do you even see it as a crisis? Some religions permit abortion..."

(In 1986, my roommate, John Anklow, a Reform Jew from New York, attending college in Colorado, and visiting California over the summer, was kind enough to inquire incorrectly along these lines: wouldn't abortion be a good thing, because it would prevent one from taking another birth in the material world?)

Pro-life feminist Mary Krane Derr and I co-wrote an article on Hindu perspectives on abortion -- for the Fall 1998 issue of the online journal Studies in Pro-Life Feminism -- with the Feminism and Nonviolent Studies Association (www.fnsa.org). Mary credits me with having caused her to become a vegetarian.

We wrote:

"Hinduism teaches that abortion, like any other act of violence (e.g., killing animals for food, clothing, "sport," etc.) thwarts a soul in its progress toward God over the course of many lifetimes.

"Why does the Hindu community seem silent on the abortion issue?

"Dr. K.S. Krishnan of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Kerala, India, offered this explanation for the apparent silence: 'Personally, I feel that a sannyassi(monk) should have no chance of discussing the private life of a lady. That can only happen when a lady approaches him to become a disciple."

In this case, the word "lady" refers to a woman whose private life is to be respected as just that (private or discreet)!

In ancient India as well, among the higher castes (known in Sanskrit as dvija, or twice-born), only the princesses were allowed to select a husband. The ceremony in which she would select a groom among numerous male suitors (princes from other kingdoms, all vying for her hand in marriage) was known in Sanskrit as a svayamvara.

In this case, the word princess would designate a woman from previous yugas (or ages) of royal character and nobility, capable of carefully and publicly making the correct choice without error.

Religious pro-lifers complain protecting unborn children is depicted inaccurately by feminists, progressives, the secular news media, online and offline, etc. as a narrow, sectarian, conservative Christian issue rather than as a secular human rights issue which should concern everyone.

Thus, these religious pro-lifers (who dominate the pro-life movement!) must know it's wrong to similarly dismiss animal issues as sectarian.

Adolf Hitler thought Albert Einstein's scientific discoveries were mere "Jewish science" and thus not applicable to gentiles. Is this the way conservative Christians view vegetarianism?

(Ironically, many liberals see abortion as a sectarian religious issue!)

The number of animals killed for food in the United States is nearly 75 times larger than the number of animals killed in laboratories, 30 times larger than the number killed by hunters and trappers, and 500 times larger than the number of animals killed in animal pounds.

And issues like animal experimentation, circuses, fur, etc. have nothing to do with diet, eating, or food. The issue clearly IS the animals' right to life! 

If the issue were merely "dietary laws," why would pro-lifers be offended by pro-choice vegetarians and vegans, unless its understood people go veg for the animals' right to life, and thus these people appear to value animal life over human life under some circumstances? Why would pro-lifers joke if it's wrong to kill plants, unless it's understood people go veg because they believe it's wrong to kill animals? Why would pro-lifers bring up the thoroughly debunked myth that Hitler was a "vegetarian"...if not to discredit vegetarianism as a nonviolent philosophy toward humans and animals alike?

It's hypocritical for pro-life Republicans to attack the animal rights movement for not being officially pro-life when they allow their own political party to remain a "big tent" on abortion for fear of losing votes. It doesn't occur to them that the animal rights movement faces an identical political reality?

The animal rights movement, representing a cross-section of mainstream American society, is divided on abortion. Maria Krasinski, whom I met through Democrats For Life, was relieved to hear this in 1999, saying before she was under the mistaken impression animal activists are all pro-choice, and she thus felt she could not support their views. Pro-life and pro-animal groups emerged during the 1990s.  I encourage you to join us!

Les Brown of the Overseas Development Council calculates that if Americans reduced their meat consumption by only ten percent per year, it would free at least twelve million tons of grain for human consumption -- or enough to feed sixty million people.

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