The modern Vegetarian movement, much like the old, has brought determination and strength to their cause. Yet, unlike the older writers and activists — those noble poets who would spend a night on a hill in the wilderness, marvelling at the tears of the stars — unlike their ancestors, the modern Vegetarian movement has gained validity from science and literature.
In the regard to the character of animals, it cannot be denied that they are more valued today than in years past. Countless films and books have been composed on behalf of the heroic nature of animals, including Jack London’s White Fang, Disney’s 101 Dalmations, among others. Though more respect and homage is being given to those four-legged creatures, it is not entirely true that their rights are being respected. For example, with the development of these literary ventures, there has not be a significant overall increase in the liberation of the world’s animals.
Science also has been supportive of the Animal Rights movement, though this may be a bit over-simplifying; science experiments today validate the belief that a Vegetarian diet is healthy, and a Vegan diet healthier still, while science experiments further the idea that animals are conscious beings, capable of thought and emotion, and that they do not differ greatly from humans in that mindset.
When Charles Darwin wrote that “the difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind” (The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, by Charles Darwin, chapter 14), his words have been confirmed today by modern science investigation.
It would be impossible for true science to favor either Animal Rights or opposition to, but the findings of scientists have supported the ideal behind the Animal Rights movement.
Along with the literary and scientific progress, there is also a rather large swell in the number of individuals living the Vegetarian lifestyle today, easily noted by the number of companies and businesses that today now cater to Vegetarian needs.
The Principles of Vegetarianism
Though it is true that we have more reasons to be Vegetarian today, if not for ethical reasons then for health reasons, there are still those questions that people have about the lifestyle that ought to be answered. The first of these concerns is the belief that Vegetarianism is a focus on food and not any ethical or moral ideals, at least, not any such creed that extends beyond the food. I have even been referred to as a “food police” because I was a Vegetarian.
Others have told me that Vegetarians simply are denying themselves the pleasure of taste because they are masochistic. None of this is true. Vegetarianism is simply the application of a deeper, more avowed belief, the belief that all conscious beings are capable of thought and emotion, whether it is animosity, aggression, tenderness, altruism, sorrow, or regret. It may be true that humans today are much more well developed than the other animals whom we share this world with.
We have hands which are capable for manipulating the physical world around us and a voice for communication. Those animals whom have hands like us have not been slow to show that they can understand us and have thoughts of their own they like to express — in 1966, under the direction of Drs. Beatrice and Allen Gardner, Project Washoe had succeeded in teaching chimpanzees to communicate using sign language.
While the civilization of humans has progressed greatly, with technological and scientific advancements, it still holds the burden of being the most destructive of all the species, ravaging environments, investing effort into creating nuclear and biological terrors, wiping out species in the name of game and commerce, committing every brutality for the sake of profit — doing the things that would make children cry for our wealth.
One belief that I firmly hold, implanted in the base of justice, is the idea that you should not show bias to your allies over strangers when it comes to matters of right and wrong, that a kindly stranger is worth more than an arrogant comrade — that the words uttered by your closest brother, “Do not stand by me if it means you leave the side of justice,” are but the poetry of the Universe.
When a lover looks into the eyes of the one who drives him mad with passion, as he analyzes the expressions of happiness, joy, and peace — what he is seeing is not so human, as it is animal; by this, I mean the things which fill him with ecstacy and love are not foreign to those creatures who must inhabit this world alongside us.
When a woman spends an evening with a colleague talking of times past and gone, of the experience gained, of the treasures won and lost — that emotion of kinship, comradery, friendship, it is not strictly human; and by this, too, I mean that animals are not beyond the capability of this emotion.
And so, when our lives are full of those encounters of our lovers and friends, of those who turn a bleak world into a reason for living, it is not entirely different to the lives of animals. A gentle touch, a tender kiss, a longing embrace, a remorseful gaze — these are not alien to creatures.
While several hundred million years passed with the development of humanity, the world has known love, has known hate, has known the reasons for anxiety and the causes of affection for billions of years, with the existence of animals.
When a lover looks into the eyes of the one who drives him mad with passion, when a woman spends an evening with a colleague talking of times past and gone, of the experience gained, of the treasures won and lost — these individuals are not only experiencing the reasons that make their life worth living, but they are experiencing the emotions that animals are not ignorant to.
So while some humane men and women engage in those things which give them cause for admiration and kinship, they are entirely amoral towards those beings who are equally capable of emotion. It seems almost that they make a friend of humans and an enemy of non-humans, yet the very reasons that they value humans are equally existent for four-legged or winged animals.
In a very real way, animals have a civilization, but it cannot be measured by the amount of trade centers they have built, or the number of books written, or museums erected, or governments in power, but by the interaction they have among each other.
Today, philanthropists will labor against the injustices among humanity: that more medical research is spent on weight reduction than curing life-threatening diseases, that those who labor in our economy are the poorest class while those who do no labor are the richest, that from church to school to home, sex is treated as an abomination and a cause for shame.
Though these situations truly are meritable of our attention, there is a whole new world, full of pain, suffering, and misery — the world of animals, whether it is in the slaughterhouse and then in our plate, in the wild and targeted by hunters, in the laboratory and then on our shelves — and while Philanthropists aid in the recovery of human tragedy, they are deaf to the screams and cries of those who are greatest in number suffering the greatest abuse.
Every year, the amount of animals that are killed for the sake of human appetite, exceeds the number of humans living on this planet. To the Humanitarian, this statistic is sickening.
An animal deserves as many rights as a human, because like a human, an animal retains the same reasons causes for deserving justice: they can think, they can feel, they can suffer.
When we look back today to the old Abolitionists of the 1700’s and the 1800’s, we have a feeling of admiration for those who had the courage to go against the grain, risking the feelings the public, their friends, and their family had for them, all for the sake of deep, well-reasoned, personal convictions.
These were men and women who sought the liberation of an entire race of humans. There are the famous legends, one of Harriet Tubman, who personally would cross from the North to the South to bring men to a land that respects their right to liberty.
Today, a great deal of books, plays, and movies have been produced, all documenting in some form the emotional pain felt by those who have been put in shackles, because of their skin color.
Knowing their pain, their suffering, that their lives were a hopeless stain on the mirror of humanity — that everyday consisted of endless toil, bloody finger tips, and bruised flesh — to know this, in our world today, we are full of vengeance, of animosity, of such a great deal of anger and hate towards slavers and the acts that they perpetrated against our ancestors, those men and women who today we regard as equals, who today we understand can feel and suffer as much as any white person.
And to know that there were men and women who fought against them, that there were Abolitionists, who used pen and sword to liberate the minds and bodies of slaves, whose lives were an endless work of liberation, who did all they could to obstruct the profits of the slavery… to know today that our heart is little more than a dedication to the thought of such men and women, it is with a great, but necessary disappointment that now there is nothing we can do, for all the crimes of the slaver have already been committed, and all the work of the Abolitionists is complete, as such race slavery no longer plagues our land.
So now we must concede that slavery fills our heart with tears and we cannot do anything to stop what has already happened, but we are left with the history of Abolitionists, and one more reason to believe in goodness.
This admiration that we cast upon heroes of old, it is done so, with a silence on the matter of how we feel towards animals today. It is rarely brought up that the way slavers felt of African humans is identical to the way we feel towards animals: they are simply machines, to be used and abused in our own self interest.
And, it is rarely brought up that the reason why we oppose slavery is identical to the reason to oppose animal slavery: both beings are conscious, they can feel, they can suffer, they are capable of emotions, they are not beyond the pale of sympathy and affection — they are much like ourselves, and their minds are amazingly similar to our own.
So, today, a man can have as much courage, strength, and conviction, as those Abolitionists, if he were to cast asside the fetters of our society — to refuse to consume flesh, or to engage in activities which cause suffering to the lower creatures of our planet. It is no doubt that Vegetarianism, Vegans, and Animal Rights activists today are acting in opposition to what a great deal of society believes, and in a very real way, they are leading an alternative lifestyle.
But there must always be the first, just as there is to every great cause to succeed. In the beginning, the movement for Feminism gained little attention, but its first advocates were its greatest, and those who fought for equality were always remembered by future thinkers as lovers of the humane truth.
The same can be said of the Abolitionism, the Civil Rights, the religious tolerance, the anti-Censorship, and the Peace movements, many of them still in activity today, but all of them working on the same principle: that there is a downtrodden, abused class of beings out there who can suffer and feel the same emotion as the rest of us.
There have always been the similar replies to every cause. They will say this class of beings is not intelligent, which was said to every cause working for equality of African humans, women, or non-human animals.
They will say that if we grant rights to this class, other downtrodden groups will want them, too. They will say that the rest of “us” benefit from the slavery or abuse of the silent minority. Lies, lies, and more lies, to defend brutality, to uphold a tyranny.
There is a hope, though, today that we can end animal abuse. I am not speaking of ending it now, but in a not-so distant future, when humans are a little less ignorant, when people are a little more willing to listen, when those who defended the defenseless had enough support to force the majority to confront the issue.
But there is always today, the battles of here and now, that will be necessary if there is any hope of attaining and securing those rights which animals deserve. Today is simply an opportunity for each of us concerned with our fellow creatures, to abstain from all lifestyles which might further contribute to their suffer, to enlighten our fellow humans on the injustice of the flesh habit — to form the foundation for hope that there is a tomorrow with better possibilities.
There will be those for whom debating and writing letters will not be enough, and to appease the restless tugging of their soul, they will go to the extreme. They will be like the Abolitionists of old day, and they will destroy commercial buildings belonging to animal abusers — fur stores will be paint bombed, arson will visit slaughterhouses, and broken windows will become an occurence for meat delis.
When I speak of these modern Abolitionists, I speak of men and women with courage, with devotion, with bravery, with character — and when our society praises people like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, understand that our modern Abolitionists will one day be regarded with as much reverence and respect by a just society, hopefully living in the future.
These individuals will be given every libel by the government, every slander which will turn the stomach of truth — and they will be called “terrorists,” while they are liberators.
As their actions inevitably work for the greater justice of our world, they will be called every name in the book of deceit. But they will only have the thanks of every creature. While all of us cannot live this lifestyle, we can only commend it as admirable and worthy.
The best that we can do is to live a lifestyle that does not contribute to the suffering of other creatures on our world: abstain from consuming flesh, refuse to support charities that fund animal experimentation, refuse to buy products tested on animals, refuse to buy any products
With our will today, there will be a hope for a tomorrow.
The Lifestyle of Vegetarianism
Believing in Vegetarianism, though, and living the lifestyle are two seperate, not wholly different things. While there is a great number of people who faintly or partly believe in Animal Rights, there is about an equal number of people who do not engage in Vegetarian lifestyles.
Still, there are many advocates of Vegetarianism who simply promote it on moral and ethical grounds, without much of covering the actual living of such a creed, and there are just as many magazines and organizations who simply provide easy ways of living Vegetarian lifestyles, without providing any philosophical or political enthusiasm.
It is fortunate that there are such promoters of the health and taste of a Vegetarian diet, though. Those who live a Vegetarian lifestyle will be able to look forward to a great diet, with vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, corn, cucumbers, green beans, red beans, lettuce, and potatoes, sometimes baked, boiled, fried, marinated, or steamed. Condiments such as dressing, margarine, eggless mayonaise (Nayonaise), pepper, salt, spice, and sugar can be used, as well as the tradition condiments of ketchup and mustard.
All of this can be mixed in with spaghetti, lagasna, salad, a sandwich, soup, or a stir fry. There are countless possibilities of use, the imagination only being the limit, to combining vegetables to make a final product.
For fruit, one could make a fruit salad or simply eat it raw. Of course, if the taste of flesh is absolutely desired, then one enjoy one of the many artificial meats, many of them made from soy and tasting remarkably like the real thing.
The same thing can be said of non-dairy cheese, soy milk, rice milk, or one of the other meat/dairy substitutes. To quote Henry Stephens Shakespeare Salt…
It is evident that in this case, as in the butchering trade, the responsibility for whatever wrongs are done must rest ultimately on the class which demands an unnecessary commodity, rather than on that which is compelled by economic pressure to supply it; it is not the man who kills the bird, but the lady who wears the feathers in her hate, who is the true offender. But here it will be asked, is the use of fur and feathers unnecessary?
Now of course if we consider solely the present needs and tastes of society, in regard to these matters, it must be admitted that a sudden, unexpected withdrawal of the numberless animal products on which our “civilisation” depends would be a very serious embarassment; the world, as alarmists point out to us, might have to go to bed without candles, and wake up to find itself without boots.
It must be remembered, however, that such changes do not come about with suddenness, but, on the contrary, with the extremest slowness imaginable; and a little thought will suggest, what experience has already in many cases confirmed, that there is really no indispensable animal substance for which a substitute cannot be provided, when once there is sufficient demand, from the vegetable or mineral kingdom.
Take the case of leather, for instance, a material which is in almost universal use, and may, under present circumstances, be fairly decribed as necessary. What should we do without leather? was, in fact, a question very frequently asked of vegetarians during the early and callow years of the food-reform movement, until it was found that vegetable leather could be successfully employed in bootmaking, and that the inconsistency of which vegetarians at present stand convicted is only a temorary and incidental one.
Now of course, so long as oxen are slaughtered for food, their skins will be utilized in this way; but it is not difficult to foresee that the gradual discontinuance of the habit of flesh-eating will lead to a similar gradual discontinuance of the use of hides, and that human ingenuity will not be at a loss in the provision of a substitute.
So that it does not follow that a commodity which, in the immediate sense, is necessary now, would be absolutely or permanently necessary, under different conditions, in the future. [Animals’ Rights, by Henry Salt, chapter 7, 1894.]
Today as the First Day…
Whenever the sun rises, we look to our side to see a lover’s peace in dreams, we feel the cool wind brush up against our body as we commit a few moments to waking up, and a few moments to pondering our own joy — we will know that another day of our lives is here, and it is another opportunity for us to do something for the cause of Humanitarianism.
Of all great causes, fewer will end such great suffering as that of the Animal Rights cause. When the number of victims every year can be counted in billions, it is but a constant ache on the heart and mind of every conscientious person.
And though we may give everything to this cause, sacrificing needed hours of sleep, pushing our fingers till they bleed, allowing relationships with friends maybe to dwindle and finally dissipate, and then coming to a realization that we have spent every resource, we have given every ounce of will, we have given ourselves bruises and sores on our soul… and when we look in the mirror, we have lost sight of who we are.
The description of such individuals may seem dim and dreary, but it is only the cost of unending conviction. We cannot curse ourselves for not making those sacrifices, but we can only offer homage to those such beings. The best that we can do is to minimize every act of our lives that may cause suffering to those creatures around us.
Yet, to those who sacrifice all they have for this cause, perhaps by Direct Action or exhausted reform, I will quote Thomas Paine in regard to their emotions…
Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor?
If you have not, then are you not a judge of those who have. But if you have, and can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend, or lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant. [Resource: Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, Feb. 14, 1776, section: “In the following pages I offer…”]