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Vasu Murti

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Why Pro-lifers Should be Pro-Animal

During 1986 - 1988, when I had access to USENET, a nationwide computer network linking corporations, military installations, universities, etc., I paid close attention to the abortion debate. The subject of animal rights always came up, but indirectly.

The mentality of the pro-choice people was that the fetus somehow wasn't human, but rather some kind of lower life form--and that lower life forms couldn't possibly have rights.

When a pro-lifer discussed the potential humanity of the unborn, a pro-choicer replied, "MY CAT has more potential than that!"

One pro-choicer said sarcastically, "Maybe the kid (the fetus) should be raised as a vegetarian. After all, don't cows have the right to life?"

Another pro-choicer, upon hearing the pro-life argument that brain waves can be detected in the unborn as early as six weeks, pointed out that animals also have brain waves. He then added, "Excuse me, while I eat my veal stew."

Pro-life student John Morrow of Rutgers University compared abortion to slavery: Roe v. Wade denied rights to an entire class of humans merely on account of their age and developmental status, just as the Dred Scott decision of 1857 denied rights to an entire class of humans based on the color of their skin.

Dave Butler of Tektronix in Oregon responded: "Abortion and slavery? Not even close. A fetus isn't human. If you believe it's wrong to eat meat, should your morality be imposed upon everyone else?"

"Not even close" has become a popular slogan with pro-choicers. It even appeared on the headlines of most San Francisco Bay Area newspapers in November 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected.

I'm NOT trying to do "Not even close." I'm not saying the killing of unborn humans is as "trivial" as the killing of animals, I'm saying the opposite: I'm saying the killing of animals is as monstrous a crime as the killing of human beings.

When Isaac Bashevis Singer compared humanity's mass slaughter of 45 billion animals every year to the Nazi Holocaust, he wasn't saying the killing of six million Jews is as "trivial" as killing animals for food, he was saying the opposite--that killing animals for food is as monstrous a crime as the Holocaust.

Leonardo da Vinci once said, "The time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men."

I point out the similarities between the animal rights and pro-life movements, because in both cases we are dealing with classes of beings that are on the fringes of our moral community and are accorded only marginal personhood.

I point out the similarities between the animal rights and pro-life movements, because I believe there is a karmic connection between the killing of animals and the killing of human beings: abortion, like war, is the karmic reaction for killing animals.

Pro-lifers look in horror as an entire class of humans are systematically stripped of their rights, executed, and even used as tools for medical research, but this is what we humans have been doing TO ANIMALS for millennia.

Pro-lifers speak of the "slippery slope": the belief that acceptance of abortion leads to a devaluation of life and paves the way towards acceptance of infanticide and euthanasia. I merely assert that the "slippery slope" begins with what we humans do to animals. Pythagoras warned that "Those who kill animals for food will be more prone than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men."

In both cases, we're discussing extending our moral sphere to encompass a disenfranchised class of beings. 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.

Keeping religion completely out of the picture, I remain convinced that animal rights and prenatal rights activists ought to be sympathetic to each others' causes, because similar moral principles are involved. In a 1992 interview with Dennis Prager, Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA, 800,000 strong) admitted that the animal rights movement is divided on the issue of abortion. This was also made clear in a 1998 issue of the "Animals' Agenda" which discussed the debate within the animal rights movement over abortion. For the animal rights movement to align itself only with pro-choice people would be disastrous, for the reasons given above.

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