Animal Rights & Human Rights: A Plea for Solidarity

20840655_1406828989353790_4311141407366042039_nby Guest blogger Kingsley Manfredo

It is the proclaimed position of many animal rights activists that compassion has no boundaries. We feel that our daily struggle against speciesism on behalf of oppressed animals is a moral imperative. We protest, we demonstrate, we march, and we change the way we live our lives to serve as inspiration to others to embrace their values. We want to create a world wherein justice for all includes fur, fins, and feathers.

But what about justice for oppressed humans?

A common response from the targets of our advocacy is that we spend too much time worrying about the animals and not enough time focused on people. While adopting a vegan lifestyle has countless benefits to mankind as well, such as dealing with global food and water shortages and stemming the literal rising tide of climate change, there are some things even veganism does not address. So is it true what our detractors claim? Do we focus so narrowly on closing factory farms and disrupting circuses that we overlook our bipedal neighbors? Or do we have the capacity to change the world for everyone?

We live in an age where the plight of mankind has come to a global boiling point. Resource scarcity and geopolitical uncertainty escalates simmering tensions once thought under control. The news of the day is filled with more questions than answers, more terror than hope. It seems as though everything is on the edge of collapse and at the heart of it all sits humanity, scared and caged and largely at the mercy of the powerful. Is this not the same situation that brings tears to our eyes when looking upon a dairy calf or a fur-farm mink? Do we not, then, share that same moral responsibility to do something to stop the suffering?

It seems inconsistent to care so intensely about a chained tiger and so little about a chained sweatshop worker; to care about a battered cat in one shelter and not a battered woman in another; to care about liberating a dog howling in a hot car and not a man shivering on the cold street. The same freedom we wish for the animals, we should therefore wish for each other, as well the same safety, security, peace, and happiness. Just as we are willing to fight for the animals, we should therefore be willing to fight for humans.

Sexism, racism, ableism, speciesism: these are all wrapped up in the same cloak of “other”, as though the differences between us justify a difference in treatment–As though skin color should dictate law, as though gender should dictate access, as though shape, size, or aesthetic should dictate worthiness of being alive. When people in a position of power try to tell us otherwise, we need to be loud and unashamed in our dissent. We need to publicly demand change in policy and in practice. We need to fight and we need to win.

I know in these trying times the animal rights community can lead the way for a brighter tomorrow for all. United we stand, divided we fall. The animals need us: human and non-human alike.