Vasu Murti

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Familiar Comparisons

The issue of whether or not the unborn are persons being denied rights, executed, and even treated as tools for medical research, the way we once treated minorities, slaves, indigenous people, etc. and the way we currently treat other animals, is distinct from discussing the social factors (poverty, discrimination, etc.) which cause women to seek abortion in the first place.

For a discussion of the latter, which I've addressed before, I would refer you to pro-life feminist literature.

Personhood must be resolved before we can discuss whether abortion should be legal or illegal.

The abortion debate centers on the personhood or moral status of the unborn, and the extent of individual and/or marital privacy. Therefore...

The abortion debate is an appropriate forum for discussion of animal issues!

In the cases of animal rights and abortion, we're discussing extending our circle of compassion to embrace an excluded class of beings: beings on the fringes of our moral community which are accorded only marginal personhood, often inconsistent at best.

The unborn, for example, are considered persons if they are "wanted," and are otherwise regarded as insentient "tissue" to be discarded. Animals like pets, are considered part of the family, whereas other animals are considered "food" or tools for medical research.

If a pregnant teen goes to a crisis pregnancy center, the Christians there will not judge her for the sin of fornication, nor equate the victimless crime of fornication with the crime of killing an unborn child.

Similarly: removing superficial, external religious arguments from the debate (fornication, food restrictions or preferences, "dietary laws"), at the heart of the matter in each case is the moral question of unnecessarily harming or taking another person's life!

Ingrid Newkirk, Executive Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said at the Festival for the Animals in San Francisco, CA on June 14, 1992, that in previous centuries, Native Americans were killed for "sport."

(Vegan labor leader Cesar Chavez spoke at that festival as well.)

Christian writer C.S. Lewis compared vivisection (animal experimentation) with Nazi physicians experimenting upon concentration camp prisoners. Isaac Bashevis Singer has compared the killing of 50 billion animals every year to the Nazi Holocaust, saying for the animals, "it is an eternal Treblinka." The phrase "eternal Treblinka" became the title of Charles Patterson's 2002 book comparing humanity's mistreatment of animals with the Nazi's "final solution."

In The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery, author Marjorie Spiegel quotes former Alameda County supervisor John George pointing out that black Americans were the first laboratory animals in America.

In a 1979 interview with vegetarian historian Rynn Berry, civil rights leader Dick Gregory has also expressed the opinion that the plight of the poor will improve as humans cease to slaughter animals:

"I would say that the treatment of animals has something to do with the treatment of people. The Europeans have always regarded their slaves and the people they have colonized as animals."

PETA employee Dan Matthews compares seeing a fish caught on a hook writhing in terror with his own cowering in fear at the hands of gay bashers in his autobiography, Committed.

Pro-choice feminist writer and Christian theologian Carol J. Adams (she has a Master's degree from the Harvard Divinity School) compares the way humans oppress other animals with the way the patriarchy oppresses women (including domestic violence) in her 1991 book, The Sexual Politics of Meat.

Comparisons between humanity's treatment of other animals and the treatment of oppressed classes of humans are familiar, and I drew a comparsion between the killing of animals and the killing of unborn children in my 2006 book, The Liberal Case Against Abortion.

I don't know if The Liberal Case Against Abortion has caused any pro-lifers to go vegan. When Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman wrote Skinny Bitch, a dieting guide telling young women how to "...stop eating crap, and start looking fabulous..." the vegan community was ecstatic, thinking it would bring veganism into the mainstream. But even on a liberal website,, the book was dismissed as "a thinly disguised vegan manifesto." In early 2008, I commented in response: "What's wrong with a vegan manifesto?"

The issue isn't just vegetarianism out of kindness to animals or even ending global hunger or concern for the environment -- it goes deeper than that. We're talking about the systematic oppression and subjugation of other animals.

John Stuart Mill wrote:

"The reasons for legal intervention in favor of children apply not less strongly to the case of those unfortunate slaves -- the animals."

Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), successfully prosecuted a woman for child abuse in 1873, at a time when children had no legal protection, under the then currently existing animal protection statutes. This case started the child-saving crusade around the world.

Cardinal John Heenan wrote in 1970:

"Animals...have very positive rights because they are God's creatures...Only the perverted are guilty of deliberate cruelty to animals or, indeed, to children."

UC Berkeley law professor John T. Noonan, Jr. compares the suffering of animals with the suffering of (born and unborn) children, and the humane response in each case:

"...if you will do this for an animal, why not for a child?...There are no laws which regulate the suffering of the aborted like those sparing pain to dying animals...Can human beings who understand what must be done for animals and what cannot be done for unborn humans want this inequality of treatment to continue?

"...we are bound to animals as fellow creatures, and as God loves them out of charity, so must we who are called to imitate God. It is a sign not of error or weakness but of Christlike compassion to love animals. Can those who feel for the harpooned whale not be touched by the situation of the salt-soaked baby?"

And the converse is equally true: Can those calling themselves "pro-life," claiming the "respect life" and believe in the "sanctity-of-life" respect the lives and rights of animals?

I'm told Democrats For Life of America held a vote several years ago on whether or not to include animal rights on the agenda, but there weren't enough pro-animal votes at the time for animal rights to be included. That's democracy.

At least animal rights are being given serious discussion in DFLA, and maybe it'll pass when brought up for discussion again.

Democrats For Life of America, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, South Building, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20004 (202)220-3066

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