Back in June when I participated in my first ever protest march for animal rights, one of the speakers who spoke to the crowd prior to the march was an activist named Paul Bali. He’d been in many marches before and he shared a story of one protest he’d been on where someone yelled at him from the street, “Human problems first!” This is not a surprising reaction. I’ve written about this before, this “but-what-about-the-starving-children” response humans seem only to have developed toward the topic of animal rights, one which no doubt every vegan has experienced at some point. As I’ve also mentioned previously, this attitude only seems to occur when discussing the treatment of animals we eat.
For instance, if I were to be a staunch advocate on behalf of abused or exploited dogs and cats or even wildlife conservation, I would bet my next paycheque I’d never hear the same “arguments” when advocating on behalf of farm animals: “Guess you don’t care about poor people, eh?” or “I guess people living on the streets don’t matter then.” No one would dare say that. As long as I speak on behalf of animals we don’t regularly find on our dinner plates, I’d rarely be challenged. I might even be called a hero or a compassionate person. But as soon as a vegan mentions considering the suffering and rights of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep, lobsters, fish, etc., look the fuck out. Out comes the name-calling and the stereotypes. A compassionate person becomes a crazy person. A hero becomes someone with nothing better to do with their time. An advocate becomes a hippie; bravery becomes brainwashing. I’m not calling all vegans heroes or brave – I’m (hopefully) illustrating how the labels change depending on the animal. A person advocating on behalf of dogs is no different from a person advocating on behalf of pigs – the message is the same, only the animal is different. And that’s where animal rights activists differ from say, an omnivore who truly loves their pet dog: activists view all animals as equal because of all animals’ capacity to suffer. A pig shouldn’t be subjected to factory farming any more than a dog should simply because we don’t want to give up bacon. Continue reading