Animal Rights- what does that mean to you?

After hearing the Animal Rights Conference would be on the West Coast in July, I thought about going. Then, I thought about how I am vegan not only for the animals, but also for the environment and people. What would the sessions be like? I wasn’t sure if I fit the mold of activist that attends these types of things. I am way more concerned about big issues being addressed first, than every single smaller issue if that makes sense. I see the connection between how we think of animals in general as needing to shift, but worry that we lose people if we talk more about horseback riding than factory farming and ocean depletion. I asked a fellow pragmatic vegan advocate, and he told me it was not too radical. And, then met Seth Tibbott, Tofurky founder who encouraged me to go.

So, after missing the early bird deadline I bought my airline ticket and will be headed back to LA in July… even though I swore I’d never return to the vicinity after last year’s heat wave in October.

I don’t know what to expect yet, but I am excited to be meeting with people I’ve met online coming from Europe to attend, as well as all the other people committed to making sure animals have a voice.

Animal Rights is an interesting topic, definitely from a philosophical standpoint. I know most people agree we should not torture and abuse animals, even though we have designated some animals as being exempt from this. Is it based on cuteness, intelligence, endangered status or just cultural taste preferences? If you are interested in this topic, Melanie Joy has written an exceptional book, “Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows”  or you can watch her TED talk here.

It is a huge shift to actually rethink how we were taught by our society and culture to consider animals as our property and to use however we wish. But, we have had changes in history on how we’ve thought of slaves, women, Jewish people, and other groups. You may not consider this an equal comparison, but similar rationalizations have been used.

I am constantly listening to other perspectives from small dairy farmers to relatives, take a moment and think about if there is some truth to the idea of speciesism. If you love and care about an animal- a dog or cat perhaps… why are other animals not deserving of protection? I used to tell my child (and myself), that it was okay to eat animals because we bred them for that purpose. Why is that okay to breed them only to live a very short, miserable life? See lifespan.

And like the golden rule found in most religions, “do unto others as you would have done unto you”. What if the roles were reversed? Weird, right?

If these ideas are not something you want to consider, the environmental aspect still covers us all. The animals are linked to us, and keeping the Earth habitable for as long as possible is in all of our best interests.