The Writings of
Vasu Murti

Email
vm@vasumurti.org

Human Rights - Social Justice - Animal Rights - Peace - Love - Compassion - Kindness - Gentleness - Religion - Soul - Spirit - Knowledge - Wisdom - Politics - Science - Environment - Vegan - Vegetarian - God - Humans - Animals

| Home | Books | Publications | Articles | The Author |

Agenda for a New America
a-usa2.gif (3271 bytes)a-usa2.gif (3271 bytes)Part One
The Politics of Vegetarianism
Chapter 2 - Equality

The principle of the equality of human beings is not a description of an alleged actual equality among humans; it is a prescription of how we should treat humans.  Thomas Jefferson saw this point.  He wrote in a letter to the author of a book the notable intellectual achievements of Negroes in order to refute the then common view that they had limited intellectual capacities:

"...whatever be their degree of talent it is no measure of their rights.  Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the property or person of others."

Similarly when in the 1850s the call for women's rights was raised in the United States a remarkable black feminist named Sojourner Truth made the same point in more robust terms at a feminist convention.

" ...they talk about this thing in the head; what do they call it?  ('Intellect,' whispered someone nearby.)  That's it.  What's that got to do with women's rights or Negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?"

If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans for the same purpose?  In a forward-looking passage written at a time when black slaves had been freed by the French but in the British dominions were still being treated in the way we now treat animals, Jeremy Bentham wrote:

"The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.

"The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor.

"It may one day come to be recognized that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate.

"What else is it that should trace the insuperable line?   Is it the faculty of reason or perhaps the faculty of discourse?  But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month old.  But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail?  The question is not, Can they reason?,   nor Can they talk?  but, Can they suffer?"

The capacity for suffering and enjoyment is a prerequisite for having interests at all, a condition that must be satisfied before we can speak of interests in a meaningful way.  It would be nonsense to say that it was not in the interests of a stone to be kicked along the road by a schoolboy.  A stone does not have interests because it cannot suffer.  A mouse, on the other hand, does have an interest in not being kicked along the road, because it will suffer if it is.

Go on to Chapter 3 - Reasoning Ability
Return to The Politics of Vegetarianism Table of Contents

We welcome your comments and questions

| Home | Books | Publications | Articles | The Author |


This site is hosted and maintained by:
The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation
Thank you for visiting all-creatures.org.
Since date.gif (991 bytes)