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We're Divided

 
The animal rights movement in the United States is divided on abortion.
 
1. Vegan labor leader Cesar Chavez was opposed to abortion.
 
2. Television game show host Bob Barker is a conservative Republican AND an animal rights activist.
 
3. Former Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy, a Catholic vegan and pacifist has expressed opposition to abortion.
 
4. As early as 1992, shortly after the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Calif., in an interview with Dennis Prager's conservative talk show, Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was asked about the animal rights position on abortion. She said, "We're divided." (I first saw this interview in January 1995.)
 
5. Kathleen Marquardt founded Putting People First, a now-defunct anti-animal rights group. In her 1993 book, Animal Scam: The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights, Marquardt writes that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) "now encourages vegetarianism, the banning of fur, and the eventual end to all animal research, not just ‘cruel’ animal research." Marquardt writes that the Humane Society now supports vegetarianism.
 
According to Marquardt, "The typical animal rights activist is a white woman making about $30,000 a year. She is most likely a schoolteacher, nurse, or government worker. She usually has a college degree or even an advanced degree, is in her thirties or forties, and lives in a city."
 
Marquardt cites studies indicating that animal rights activists tend to identify with liberal causes such as feminism and environmentalism. "Every year," writes the Reverend Andrew Linzey, author of Christianity and the Rights of Animals, "I receive hundreds of anguished letters from Christians who are so distressed by the insensitivity to animals shown by mainstream churches that they have left them or are on the verge of doing so." It is not surprising, therefore, that Marquardt reports that "Most activists share a bias against Western civilization and its Judeo-Christian foundations."
 
According to Marquardt, the "political clout" of the animal rights movement "is surprisingly bipartisan. But most of the leading politicians working with the animal rights movement are liberal Democrats." Marquardt makes mention of Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Nevada Congressman Jim Bilbray, Charlie Rose of North Carolina, Tom Lantos and Gerry Studds.
 
Marquardt admits, however, that "some Republicans are animal rightists, too. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas often supports animal rights causes—except, of course, those pertaining to cattle, a major business in Kansas. Senator Robert Smith of New Hampshire was a founder of the Congressional Friends of Animals. Bob Dornan of California, one of the most conservative House members, is an animal rights advocate — he cosponsored legislation banning the use of animals in testing cosmetics and received a PETA award. And Manhattan Congressman Bill Green promoted legislation that would have shut down over 90 million acres of federal land to hunting, fishing, and trapping."
 
Marquardt states further that "Although he’s not an elected official, a conservative political figure who, surprisingly, is on the other side is G. Gordon Liddy, author Will and a key figure in the 1972 Watergate uproar. When I went on Liddy’s radio show, he and PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk greeted each other with hugs and kisses and lots of warm words.
 
"With allies in both political parties and across the ideological spectrum," concludes Marquardt, "the animal rights movement has been able to score some great successes, regardless of which party controls the White House or Capitol Hill."
 
6. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, all oppose abortion and teach compassion and nonviolence towards animals to the point of vegetarianism. From 1992 through 2003, James Dawson, raised Catholic and now a Buddhist, published Live and Let Live, a pro-life / animal rights / libertarian 'zine. 
 
Pro-life vegetarians and vegans can be found within the "consistent-ethic" movement: pro-lifers opposed to capital punishment. 
 
The Seamless Garment Network (SGN) is a coalition of peace and justice organizations on the religious left. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has signed the SGN Mission Statement:
 
"We are committed to the protection of life, which is threatened in today's world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, the arms race, the death penalty and euthanasia.
 
"We believe these issues are linked under a consistent ethic of life. We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting the unprotected."
 
Mary Rider, a *practicing* Catholic (arrested for protesting both the death penalty AND abortion -- when I first met her in 2002, she was pregnant with her eighth child!) and Executive Director of the SGN, wrote in Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a "consistent-ethic" periodical in 2002:
 
"So we teach our children to walk softly on the earth and to embrace nonviolence as the only legitimate means of conflict resolution, on both a personal and a global level.
 
"We are aware of the excessive, privileged life we lead as educated, first world U.S. citizens and of the responsibilities to which our privilege calls us. We try to live simply. We eat low on the food chain. We try to buy nothing new...
 
"We try to respect all life and carry that message forward in all we do... Because we value people and relationships over things... First world consumption kills people around the world...
 
"Pollution, environmental devastation, corrupt governments, war, sweatshops... all are a are a result of our desire to buy more at a lower price...
 
"We believe each person has a right to live a valued and respected life free from hunger and discrimination..."
 
Pro-life Catholic vegetarian Al Fecko wrote to me in 1995, interested in bringing Vaishnavaite Hindus into the SGN, which would increase its pro-animal component as well. 
 
I told Al that abortion and war are the collective karma for killing animals. We can't end abortion and war until we shut down the slaughterhouses.
 
I told Al that for us, as Vaishnavas, or devotees of Lord Vishnu or Krishna, abolishing all war is utopian. The Bhagavad-gita itself was spoken on a battlefield: a call to action. I said, instead, the SGN should oppose all wars of aggression (rather than wars of self-defense) and a military draft.
 
A significant number of Seamless Garment Christians are / were vegetarian or vegan: Rose Evans, Ruth Enero, Rachel MacNair, Al Fecko, Carol Crossed, Bill Samuel, Mary Krane Derr, Mary Rider, Father John Dear, etc.
 
7. Speaking at Stanford University in 1998, Serrin Foster, Executive Director of Feminists For Life told college students that Feminists For Life has many vegetarians and vegans in its ranks. Serrin Foster identifies herself as a vegetarian. During the late 1990s, I was on an email list for pro-life vegetarians and vegans moderated by Rachel MacNair, a Quaker pacifist, feminist, vegan, past president of Feminists For Life and a graduate student in psychology (she's now a psychology professor, and has written several books on nonviolence).
 
8. In 1998, the now-defunct Animals' Agenda ran a cover story on the debate within the animal rights movement over abortion. 
 
9. Vegan congressman Dennis Kucinich (D - Ohio), one of the most liberal members of Congress, was pro-life throughout most of his political career.
 
10. In 2004, on the Democrats For Life email list, Maria Krasinski (a Catholic lesbian who became a Quaker!) mentioned a poll which found animal activists evenly divided on abortion. This is significant. It either means animal rights are a bipartisan cause which conservatives can support alongside liberals, OR it means many liberals are uncomfortable with abortion.
 
11. For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action offers the reader an introduction to animal rights ethics within a Christian framework alongside directly related sanctity-of-life issues, like the rights of unborn children. The book's foreword is written by Mary Eberstadt, senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, a devout Catholic who identifies herself as "Pro-Animal, Pro-Life."
 
Author Charles Camosy responds to criticisms from academicians Peter Singer and Lynn White, Jr., that the Christian misinterpretation of "human dominion" (versus compassionate stewardship) is responsible for the current ecological crisis. Camosy indicates that Christianity cannot be blamed if humans with their imperfections distort their own religious teachings, that Christianity did not give rise to the industrial revolution, and that real Christianity -- as it was meant to be practiced -- is at odds with market-driven ethics and mass consumerism (a point made decades ago by liberal Protestant theologian Dr. Harvey Cox). 
 
Camosy discusses the the moral status of animals in the Bible from Genesis to the Peaceable Kingdom in Isaiah 11:6-9, reconciling animal sacrifices and Jesus' miracles like the multiplication of loaves and fishes with the vegetarian view, and downplaying the apostle Paul's dim view of animals by contrasting his words on animals with those of Jesus. Camosy discusses early Christian saints and other great figures in the Christian tradition. Camosy discusses current Christian teachings on animals, including animal-friendly statements by recent Popes. Subsequent chapters discuss factory farming, eating meat, research, hunting, and pets.
 
In 1992, my pro-life friends in Life Chain couldn't understand my bringing up the issue of animal rights among pro-lifers, and trying to show that the Bible and the Christian tradition support the vegetarian way of life. They compared it to the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus in his own words, whereas I, having researched the long history of animal advocacy and vegetarianism within Christianity, saw it as reasonable and mainstream as someone from a pro-life Christian denomination discussing sanctity-of-life issues with someone from a pro-choice Christian denomination. 
 
Charles Camosy writes: "About ten years ago I became convinced that, if I wanted to be authentically and consistently pro-life, I should give up eating meat." The International Network for Religion and Animals (INRA) was founded in 1985, and since then dozens of books have been written on Christianity and animal rights. There is enough of a long history of concern for animals and vegetarianism in Christianity to provide the basis for Christians to be "Pro-Animal, Pro-Life," but Camosy merely provides an overview of animal rights and animal ethics within a Christian framework. 
 
12. Matthew Scully, former speechwriter for George W. Bush and Sarah Palin identifies himself as "Pro-Animal, Pro-Life."
 
13. Reverend Frank & Mary Hoffman's Christian vegan ministry and website www.all-creatures.org is both pro-life and pro-animal.
 
14. Catholic Concern for Animals is pro-life and pro-animal.
 
15. Steve Kaufman, head of the Christian Vegetarian Association, was raised Jewish and polls show 90 percent of American Jews supporting abortion rights. Steve converted to Christianity and is now serving in the United Church of Christ, America's largest pro-choice Protestant denomination. But Steve expressed interest when I sent him a Democrats For Life pamphlet years ago, his only reservation being that Democrats For Life favors criminalizing abortion, whereas many (like columnist Colman McCarthy) oppose abortion, but don't think criminalization is the answer.
 
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; For Love of Animals, etc.
 
While humans are starving, half the world's grain is fed to livestock! Aren't feeding the hungry; treating the body as a temple of God which should not be defiled nor dishonored through antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, poisons and other unhealthy toxins and unhealthy food in general; the institutionalized killing of billions of animals being directly responsible for global hunger, global warming, the energy, environmental, population and water crises; treating animals humanely, and compassionate stewardship over the environment, over all of God's creation, all biblical issues? The editors of the Green Bible, which highlights environmentally-friendly biblical passages might think so.
 
The institutionalized killing of billions of animals has led to global hunger, global warming, the energy, environmental, population and water crises. Why is it so hard to accept that there's a slippery slope, a connection between the killing of animals and the killing of human beings?
 
Abortion and war are the karma for killing animals.
 
"Who loves this terrible thing called war?" asked Isadora Duncan. "Probably the meat-eaters, having killed, feel the need to kill... The butcher with his bloody apron incites bloodshed, murder. Why not? From cutting the throat of a young calf to cutting the throats of our brothers and sisters is but a step. While we ourselves are living graves of murdered animals, how can we expect any ideal conditions on the earth?"
 
"I personally believe," wrote Isaac Bashevis Singer, "that as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace. There is only one little step from killing animals to creating gas chambers a' la Hitler and concentration camps a' la Stalin -- all such deeds are done in the name of 'social justice.' There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is."
 
Vegan author John Robbins writes in his 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America:
 
"Meat-eating contributes to the fear in the world by putting us in a position in which there is not enough to go around (half the world's grain is fed to livestock). But that's not all. Meat-eaters ingest residues of the animal's biochemical response to the horrors of the slaughterhouse. 
 
"Programmed to fight or flee when in danger for their lives, the animals react to the slaughterhouse in sheer terror. Powerful biochemical agents are secreted that pump through their bloodstreams and onto their flesh, energizing them to fight or flee for their lives. Today's slaughterhouses virtually guarantee that the animals will die in terror."
 
The Maoris would eat the flesh of a slaughtered enemy in order to possess the enemy's courage and strength. The people of the lower Nubia, likewise, would eat the fox, believing that by so doing, they would be possessed of his cunning. In upper Egypt, the heart of the hoopoe bird was eaten in order to acquire the ability to become a clever scribe. The bird would be caught and its heart would be torn out and eaten while it was still alive. 
 
John Robbins notes, "certain Native American tribes would not eat the flesh of an animal who died in fear, because they did not want to take into themselves the terror of such an animal. When we eat animals who have died violent deaths we literally eat their fear. 
 
"We take in biochemical agents designed by nature to tell an animal that its life is in the gravest danger, and it must either fight or flee for its life. And then, in our wars and our daily lives, we give expression to the panic in which the animals we have eaten died."
 
Vegan author John Robbins writes in his Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America (1987):   
 
"The way we treat animals is indicative of the way we treat our fellow humans. One Soviet study, published in Ogonyok, found that over 87% of a group of violent criminals has, as children, burned, hanged, or stabbed domestic animals.  In our own country, a major study by Dr. Stephen Kellert of Yale University found that children who abuse animals have a much higher likelihood of becoming violent criminals."  
 
A 1997 study by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) reported that children convicted of animal abuse are five times more likely to commit violence against other humans than are their peers, and four times more likely to be involved in acts against property.  
 
Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, which launched the modern day environmental movement, wrote:
 
"Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is whether its victim is human or animal we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity." 
 
In a December 1990 letter to Eric Mills of Action For Animals, vegan labor leader Cesar Chavez similarly wrote:  
 
"Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society. Conversely, cruelty, whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cockfighting, bullfighting and rodeos are cut from the same fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves." 
 
Marjorie Spiegel, author of The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery, writes:  "All oppression and violence is intimately and ultimately linked, and to think that we can end prejudice and violence to one group without ending prejudice and violence to another is utter folly."
 
Apart from the violence against animals involved in meat-eating, foods DO affect one's consciousness! The ill effects of alcohol, opium, morphine, nicotine, etc. upon individual users have been well-documented. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that 60 to 75 percent of all violent crime is alcohol-related. Might there be a similar relationship between meat-eating and aggressive behavior?
 
In a letter to a friend on the subject of vegetarianism, Albert Einstein wrote, "besides agreeing with your aims for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."
 
U Nu, the former Prime Minister of Burma, made a similar observation: "World peace, or any other kind of peace, depends greatly on the attitude of the mind. Vegetarianism can bring about the right mental attitude for peace... it holds forth a better way of life, which, if practiced universally, can lead to a better, more just, and more peaceful community of nations."
 
Why don't the unborn-right-to-lifers immediately understand the animal-right-to-lifers?!
 
They *do* understand, albeit indirectly.
 
A woman wrote in to Vegetarian Times in the late '80s saying she finally understood where animal rights activists were coming from, but wondered: how can they remain silent about abortion?
 
Similarly, my friend Dave Browning (1959 - 2007), a conservative, pro-life Republican in San Diego, said at the end of 1990 (at a time when hardly anyone had heard of PETA!) he didn't understand how Greenpeace activists could protest whaling and the killing of baby seals while remaining silent about abortion.
 
So pro-lifers *do* understand that vegetarianism IS about the animals' right to life!
 
If vegetarianism were merely about "fit" or following a peculiar set of "dietary laws" why would pro-lifers be offended by pro-choice vegetarians and vegans?
 
They're offended because THEY KNOW vegetarianism involves the animals' right to life, and thus these pro-choicers appear to value animal life over human life under some circumstances. 
 
And issues like animal experimentation, circuses, and fur have nothing to do with diet, eating, nor food, but *do* involve the animals' right to life.
 
Leonardo Da Vinci, Count Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw, Susan B. Anthony, Percy Shelley, etc. were all vegetarian, and none of them were Jewish or Muslim.
 
Sometimes being lighthearted gets the point across to Christians that vegetarianism is not about "dietary laws" but about the animals' right to life: like Steve Martin in the '70s asking, "How many polyesters did you have to kill to make that suit?"

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