Julia Galef of the Rationally Speaking blog and podcast posts: Some animals are more equal than others. It is exactly the issue at hand when people speak of “animal rights”. The term has been given a black eye and invokes images of animals getting the right to vote or black bloc donning terrorists but these are crude caricatures. When pressured to admit their ultimate motive vegans have to mention animal rights or a synonym of such since it does often invoke knee-jerk reactions. Part of the reason I think veganism is faulty as tactic of advocacy is that it bypasses the issue. The smart critical thinkers will eventually come to the realization of “animal rights” on their own which is why critical thinking is probably more important than any ploy for veganism or animal rights. Animal rights IS the reasonable and rational position.
My own evolving skepticism strengthens my animal rights resolve. I never really used to use the term “animal rights” because it seemed too abstract for me and still does but describes my position the best in a single label. Labels are not always good descriptors though. Just as “vegan” means something different to every person you ask, “animal rights” has the same thing going for it and worse when you factor in the culture and activist whose extreme acts have owned the image.
I realize I could be so heavily biased and sold on the matter that renouncing my animal rights stance might be difficult but it wasn’t for lack of trying. What is the difference between us animals and other animals that allows us to treat them so unjustly? What then is the difference between other forms of life and where is the line drawn? Is it a slippery slope of a dynamic continuum and how does that inform our acts? I don’t think there are distinct lines here but I cannot but somehow feel we’re much, much over the line as to the way we systematically treat others.
Long ago when I first started going to skeptic meetups my veganism came to light and the immediate reaction by one skeptic was literally “Well you’re vegan for health or environment right?” which I thought was funny for a skeptic to say. Somehow no skeptic could be vegan for ethics. Plus, as I have made the case before, the health and environmental arguments fall flat with veganism. Mention the word “vegan” or Tarvu forbid, “animal rights” on a skeptic thread in a blog somewhere and the comments will balloon up into the hundreds with skeptics artfully exemplifying the most obvious canards and logically fallacies in their knee-jerk justifications of animal eating. For me the issue of veganism and skepticism is one and the same but for most others they somehow seem diametrically opposed.
It’s a shame that they should be taken that way. I can lay blame on all the hippies and new agers who’ve been flinging their woo and their ploys but ultimately the constructive thing to do is to focus my efforts in the area despite them. Every movement has their embarrassments and animal rights is no exception. The numbers of vegan skeptics though are growing and I think by getting people to think critically they’ll come to the same position on the matter. Of course, I argue that veganism is not the answer but with more people coming to accept animals as our earthbound peers acts of justice and recognition is inevitable.
For now the philosophers, our thought leaders are scouting this new area and soon animal rights pioneers will establish settlements. Tired cliches will be neutralized and revolution will happen without anybody noticing. It’s a long and arduous journey though but the road of reason is worth it.