Articles From The Writings of Vasu Murti

Animal rights activism

The number of animals killed for food in the United States is nearly 75 times larger than the number of animals killed in laboratories, thirty times larger than the number killed by hunters and trappers, and five hundred times larger than the number of animals killed in animal pounds. To become a vegetarian or a vegan is to carry the campaign against "cruelty to animals" to its logical conclusion. Nearly all animal activism is nonviolent: cruelty-free shopping guides to purchase products not tested on animals, fake fur, fake leather, leafleting on campuses, vegan cooking demos, vegan parties, vegan picnics, vegan potlucks, dining out at vegan restaurants, etc. 
The animal rights movement, representing a cross-section of mainstream secular American society, is *not* "officially pro-choice," but is divided on a number of issues. Not just abortion. Some activists oppose pet ownership saying owning other animals as property should be as unthinkable to us as owning other human beings as property. Other activists can accept companion animals (pets) with the understanding that they are not our property, we are not their owners, but rather, their guardians. Some activists accept humane euthanasia as a compassionate means of ending the life of an animal in pain. Others embrace a "no-kill" philosophy and there are "no-kill" animal shelters which do not euthanize animals. So the animal rights movement is divided on a number of issues. Friends Of Animals (FoA), based in Darien, CT, has buttons and/or bumper stickers saying "Veganism Is Direct Action." I think nearly everyone in the animal rights movement would agree on that  point. 
Far from being "self-righteous vegetarians" and/or wild-eyed "leftists," animal activists are working within the system to bring about social change. In the '80s, when a redneck type said he felt animal experimentation was necessary, animal activist Jane Cartmill said diplomatically, "Then we can agree to end the unnecessary experiments." 
In the early 2000s, an animal rights publication described the environmental devastation and social injustices caused by animal agriculture as well as the suffering the animals endure on factory farms, concluding about meat: "There's mouthful of misery in every bite. Cut it down or cut it out." Sir Paul McCartney similarly endorses a "Meatless Mondays" campaign. Does this sound "self-righteous"?
Through a series of email exchanges, animal activist lauren Ornelas convinced John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods Market to go vegan. Mackey editorialized in Veg-News, a slick, trendy vegan periodical out of San Francisco, that corporations like Whole Foods Market can put vegan products on the marketplace, but there has to be an actual consumer demand for these products if they are to succeed. That's capitalism. (Mackey later incurred the wrath of the American Left in 2010 when he expressed his opposition to health care reform in the Wall Street Journal.)
In The Case for Animal Rights, Dr. Tom Regan observes: "The rights view is not antagonistic to business, free enterprise, the market mechanism, and the like. What the rights view is antagonistic to is the view that consumers owe it to any business to purchase that business's goods or services. The animal industry is no exception." Cruelty-free foods and products must sink or swim in the waters of free enterprise, like everyone else. But the animal exploitation industries are subsidized by our tax dollars and enjoy special privilege. Vegan congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was the only member of Congress to vote against the so-called "Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act" which states one can be fined, if through leafleting, one causes an animal exploitation business to lose revenue. That's a violation of free speech *and* free enterprise! 
The system is rigged in favor of the animal exploitation industries! Vegan author John Robbins points out that half the water consumed in the United States goes to support the livestock industry. If these costs weren't subsidized by our tax dollars, the cheapest hamburger meat would cost $35 per pound! If the livestock industry and all the other animal exploitation industries had to compete on the open market, to sink or swim in the waters of free enterprise, like everyone else, they would collapse overnight!
Social progress means change. The invention of the automobile and the end of the Second World War brought about radical change in the work place. Anti-abolitionists claimed that the end of human slavery would bring with it the collapse of the economic structure of the Southern United States. In his book, The Status of Animals in the Christian Religion, author C.W. Hume noted:
"The major cruelties practiced on animals in civilized countries today arise out of commercial exploitation, and the fear of losing profits is the chief obstacle to reform."
John Robbins elaborates:
"To supply one person with a meat habit food for a year requires three-and-a-quarter acres. To supply one lacto-ovo-vegetarian requires only one-half of an acre. To supply one pure vegetarian (vegan) requires only one-sixth of an acre. In other words, a given acreage can feed twenty times as many people eating a pure vegetarian (vegan) diet-style as it could people eating the standard American diet-style...
"In a world in which a child dies of starvation every two seconds, an agricultural system designed to feed our meat habit is a blasphemy. Yet it continues, because we continue to support it. Those who profit from this system do not need us to condone what they are doing. The only support they need from us is our money. As long as enough people continue to purchase their products they will have the resources to fight reforms, pump millions of dollars of 'educational' propaganda into our schools, and defend themselves against medical and ethical truths.
"A rapidly growing number of Americans are withdrawing support from this insane system by refusing to consume meat. For them, this new direction in diet-style is a way of joining hands with others and saying we will not support a system which wastes such vast amounts of food while people in this world do not have enough to eat."
John Robbins concludes, "A new direction for America's diet-style would be a significant step towards a nonviolent world. It is a way of saying: 'Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.' A nonviolent world has roots in a nonviolent diet." 
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) literature similarly concludes: "A nonviolent philosophy begins at breakfast."
Again, far from being "wild-eyed leftists" or "self-righteous vegetarians," animal activists are dealing tactfully and diplomatically with the larger meat-eating public, in bringing about social change.

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