Older people can get away with saying what’s on their minds. So, having recently turned 72, I’d like to throw down the gauntlet and challenge everyone to examine their prejudices toward animals, of which, although we prefer to think of ourselves as demi-gods, we are but one.
I have started to wonder what it would be like to have a watch that, instead of telling the time, would tell you how little time you had left. Like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, I believe there is no time to waste if we’re to get things done. So, I’ve decided to push the envelope before it’s time for me to push up daisies.
The thing I want done is to stop human supremacism. If, as Thomas Henry Huxley said, we “[s]it down before fact as a little child,” we will have to recognize that speciesism is as offensive as any other discriminatory view, as unjustified as any other exploitation, and simply privilege manifested as domination. It’s a bias rooted in denying others their self-worth.
At People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the organization I founded nearly 40 years ago, our mission statement reads, “Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.” It means that those “others” who happen not to have been born human are individuals, too, with their own desires, needs, and complex lives. It means that they have the right to live free from the idea that they exist simply to serve humankind for the most trivial of reasons, for us to do with as we please, even taking their lives for the sake of a sandwich filling or a pair of shoes.
Most humans wouldn’t dream of treating their dog the way the food industry treats pigs, even though pigs can and do experience the same pain, joy, and fear as dogs. Many humans wear coats stuffed with feathers that were yanked out of the skin of a screaming goose, but they’d never consider ripping fistfuls of fur out of a wailing kitten. It’s speciesist to suggest that captive animals in laboratories don’t suffer to the same extent that we do, both psychologically and physically, to deny that they experience emotions, or that they tremble when the laboratory door opens—for they do. If we needed science to back up that fact, it already has, so why, then, are animal experimenters not charged with cruelty for ignoring their animal victims’ living conditions, for violating their rights? Why are monkey infants still torn away from their loving mothers to be experimented on, electrodes implanted in cats’ brains, and poisons force-fed down the throats of mice?
It’s time to recognize the fact that there is no justification for chickens to be raised in severely crowded sheds that reek of ammonia, for sheep to be punched and stomped on while their wool is being stolen off their backs, and for dolphins in SeaWorld’s aquatic circus to be treated like surfboards, with “trainers” balancing and riding on their sensitive rostrums.
To end speciesism, we are required to take a hard look at our personal choices and change those that harm animals. We can go vegan so as not to contribute to climate change or to clean out our clogged arteries, or we can do it because it is simply right not to exploit, hurt, and kill other living beings for food in the same way cannibals should not have eaten Captain Cook’s crew members.
There is animal-free clothing everywhere, from high-end to bargain basement. We can choose personal care and household products that aren’t tested on animals, donate only to health charities that don’t bankroll or conduct animal experiments and avoid marine circuses and land-based ones that treat animals as living props. Making kind choices isn’t hard, although if it were, that extra effort would still be required.
Animals aren’t like us—they are us. They deserve equal consideration, regardless of anyone’s opinion of them, for if speciesism is just shrugged off, then we show ourselves to be not superior but, rather, small-minded, self-centered, and mean-spirited.
Are you ready to stand with animals?
The clock is ticking.
Please join the call to #EndSpeciesism, to end animal slavery, and to make future human generations proud.
Ingrid Newkirk is president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.
Photo by Johen Redman on Unsplash