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“I mean, I don’t hate animals or anything, but” October 11, 2007

Posted by Alex Danger in Animal Rights, Feminism.
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I’ve noticed this pattern come up over and over again, talking to fairly progressive people. Whenever animal rights/animal welfare comes up stuff like “I have no problem with animals, but shouldn’t we spend [our resources] on [another issue, like domestic violence or prison reform]?” is all I ever hear.

Yesterday, in my DV & the law class, the statistic that there are x times as many pet shelters as women’s shelters came up, as in, what’s up with that? Well, first off, perhaps it is that there are more homeless animals than women in battering situations? I mean, I don’t know since the two amounts would be very difficult to tabulate – but it’s a worthy statistical question. The professor was concerned — “I love pets and all, but our priorities are clearly out of whack”. Another student commented about how we as a society perceive animals as helpless – perhaps we are expecting women to help themselves? She said it as if this was problematic thinking. Is it really? An animal can’t open its mouth and call for help, ask for food and shelter, demand to be free from harm. A woman can – at least physically – do these things.

I was also surprised that no one made the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse – although there is a readily apparent one. There are statistically high instances of DV abusers beating the household pet or threatening to do so. Many have a history of animal abuse in their childhoods. Hunting is also a prevalent hobby. Is it that hard to see the links, or does Carol J. Adams have to hit you over the head with them?

The problem with the above situation is we’re always pitting animals against some other issue that, for whatever reason, is deemed more “worthy” of our limited resources. What makes a population deserving of aid? Helplessness? Severity? Societal normatizing of suffering? What they mean to us? What they have to offer in return? Why are animal welfare issues constantly placed outside the realm of “legitimate” social activism? Is it because people are aware, or subconsciously aware, that it’s on them? That you can’t just get away with saying you “care” about animals without analyzing how you are complicit in their suffering – that so much of your life – what you eat, what you wear, what medicine you take, what shampoo you use – touches upon issues of animal welfare? That you actually have to change your lifestyle to take this position and not be a hypocrite?

Why are we so reluctant to see animal suffering as part of a continuum of violence against the politically weaker members of our society – women, children, queers, immigrants, transpeople, minorities, the poor and the disabled? Is it because people are reluctant to admit that we are like them, and they are like us? Or is it something else?

These aren’t rhetorical questions, please feel free to answer them in the comments section.

 For more on gender and animal rights, check out this.

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Comments»

1. Holli - November 11, 2007

It’s sort of like how many women don’t want to call themselves feminists – to be a feminist is to be a hairy, man-hating lesbian who doesn’t wear makeup. To be concerned about animal rights either makes you like those people who dress their dogs in sweaters and treat them like they were little people or like those PETA type people who would rather have some kid die of cancer than to use a rat in medical experiments.

As for why animal suffering is usually considered unimportant when compared to whatever pet issue (pardon the pun) it’s being compared to, well, when we’re talking about women, children, queers, immigrants, transpeople, minorities, the poor, and the disabled, what are we talking about?

People.

Why is animal suffering not considered as important as those issues? Because animals aren’t people and people, as has been proved time and time again throughout history, are selfish bastards. We come first. Our families come second. Our community comes third – if at all (At least, this is how it seems to work in the west; the east sort of reverses this order). Considering how much trouble we have acknowledging issues that involve other human beings in trouble, how hard is it to believe that, on our big list of priorities, animals come in near the bottom of it?

And, when you say “animals” do you just mean mammals? Do you just mean the animals in the labs? Do you just mean our pets? Do you just mean our livestock? Or do you count the rats we set poison out for in our homes, the black flies we swat, the ticks we pull off our dogs, the gophers we shoot in our gardens, or any other of the myriad things we kill on a daily basis because we find them inconvenient? I don’t think I’m being farcical asking that – even if one forwent leather and became a hard core vegan, would they still be hypocrites if they swat at flies?

As for me, if I had to choose between saving a drowning baby and a drowning kitten, I’d save the baby. That much proves that I do think people are more important than animals. However, I don’t think that this fact gives people the right to abuse animals. I like to eat meat but I’m willing to admit that the systems we currently have in place are obscenely horrible. I do my best to buy farm raised animals/animal products but that’s about it. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe. But at least I’m not setting cats on fire to watch the glow.

2. The Thieving Magpie - March 12, 2008

Humanity is the only species which is capable of improving itself through thought and effort. We often don’t, but we are the only species which has the potential to. We are the only species which can truly comprehend the laws of physics and the universe itself. We are the only species which just might avoid its inevitable extinction, by using technology. Without technology, humanity would have probably died out a long time ago.

Given that we are the only species currently capable of getting off this planet and avoiding inevitable extinction, the only species which can truly comprehend nature and appreciate it, the only species which can develop (even if we often don’t) a code of ethics, we are the most important species on Earth.

Animals have their rights. We should not inflicted unnecessary suffering. We should not needlessly impact on the environment. We should eat as little meat as possible (I accept that in some regions of the world such as Mongolia, meat is a necessary food), and we should never hunt animals for sport or for entertainment. I also oppose the use of fur.

However, animal needs come second to human needs. This is particularly important in the area of medical and biological research. As a scientist myself, I find it necessary, absolutely necessary, to work on animals. It’s either tested on animals, which are quick, easy to analyze and can be tailored to our needs (easier to keep), or test on human beings. We need to sacrifice animals for the sake of our science. Don’t listen to PETA and their nonsense – they are NOT scientists, they don’t understand. PETA practically worship animals as a higher lifeform than humans. A form of paganism (not that there is anything wrong with paganism).

And most of us try not to hurt animals because…. animals have nerves. If you stick a fork into them, they feel it. Pain is a physical response that almost all species are capable of (a species wouldn’t last long if it couldn’t feel pain after all) and to kill animals for entertainment, fashion or unnecessary amounts of food not only hurts the ecosystem, but inflicts unnecessary pain. Animals, while not as conscious or as intelligent as humans, can still feel pain, can still suffer. Any unnecessary infliction of suffering can be considered an evil act, no matter how strong or weak the victim. Hurting animals shows a lack of empathy.


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