Author is Sara Nemati, a Graduate School of Education student.
This letter is in celebration of World Vegetarian Day on Oct. 1. I also seek to alert you to the lack of groups on campus with a mission to protect animals.If you feel you are interested in the cause of animal rights, please contact me at scnemati[at]eden.rutgers.edu so that we may form an interest group to represent animals on campus.
"Equal consideration for animals, but people come first". These words were once spoken to me by my uncle, a man I have always thought of as warm and compassionate. My uncle's opinion is not out of the ordinary. Yet, there is a disconnection between his ideas and my own.
The idea of treating animals as equals is called animal rights. Unfortunately, when most people hear these words they think of the loud, pushy tactics of extreme animal groups. However misguided they may be in their methodology, there is logic to the beliefs they espouse. Here, I will detail three important reasons why animal rights should matter.
The sheer number of animals that suffer is mind-boggling.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, 10 billion land animals are raised and killed for food every year. Take a minute to comprehend that number: 10 billion. This number actually surpasses the world's human population, which clocks in at 6.6 billion currently. Additionally, about 180 million animals are killed for sport, medical experiments and the fur trade. Each of these animals killed annually is a sentient creature: self-aware and capable of feeling. We know this by their external signs, writhing, moaning, yelping and also their internal signs, an increase in blood pressure, heightened pulse, perspiration.
The idea of acting as a peaceful nation should include animals as well as people.
Of all of the activist slogans and campaign posters I've seen, one especially comes to mind when I think of my dedication to animal rights. It features the picture of a lamb with the words "You, who are innocent, what have you done worth of death?" Indeed, even the most ardent opponent of animals may have trouble answering this question. Please do not answer your nutritional needs. According the World Health Organization, vegetarians not only tend to have lower cholesterol, but also significantly reduced instances of coronary heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, certain types of cancers, gall stones and large intestine disorders.
Drawing back to my conversation with my uncle, I should note that he is a pacifist, like many of us. Yet how do we turn our heads at the tremendous violence toward animals? Oceana, a group dedicated to restoring and protecting the oceans, features a video on its site that details the process of a Japanese dolphin hunt. In this video, a fisherman slices the dolphin's carotid artery with a knife so that the animal bleeds to death slowly ... not an uncommon practice. You can witness similar brutal acts by searching for videos on factory farming in this country, which show various cows, pigs and chickens writhing in pain, a look of absolute terror evident on their faces. If we describe ourselves as lovers of peace and abhor violence in all forms, we should turn our conscience to our dinner plates.
The ideology and beliefs that people still share about animals need to be challenged by knowledgeable activists.
Animal rights do not mean equal rights. Animal activists are aware that animals cannot vote or participate as citizens. Currently, animals are treated as property by law and are afforded the same rights. In this way, animals are legally barred from adequate protection. It remains difficult to enforce the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (which does not include poultry, the animal that constitutes 98 percent of all animals killed) and the Animal Welfare Act (which does not offer protection to mice, rats or birds in the laboratory).
It should also be noted that the adequate protection of animals would be a slow, gradual process. Our focus, for example, is not to free every rat from the laboratory, but to push for legislation that encourages alternative methods of testing. At this date, the United Kingdom surpasses us with greater measures taken to implement tests that do not harm animals. This is a difficult battle, often discouraging at times, but by informing the masses and changing the way people view animals we can make a difference.