Today is International Human Rights Day, a day that is observed across the world every December 10th.
As an animal advocate, many times before I have heard these troublesome words being articulated out of peoplesâ€™ mouths: â€œThere are too many human problems in the world that we have to solve first before we think about animalsâ€. And also: â€œWhy donâ€™t you care about humans instead of animals?â€
These are phrases that can be incredibly frustrating to hear by those of us who advocate for animals, because we want people to understand that we are all part of this web of life, all human and non-human animals, and whatever we do to animals affects human-beings and vice versa, so incredibly and impact fully.
As noted, people will often scoff at the notion of â€œanimal rightsâ€ and say that they are for â€œhuman rightsâ€ instead. Without getting into the discussion of why we canâ€™t just all be concerned for the well-being of all animals, including human-beings, I just want to address what we mean by the word â€œrightsâ€, since thatâ€™s a loaded term in itself.
When I say â€œanimal rightsâ€ or â€œhuman rightsâ€, what I am referring to are the rights of these individuals to be treated with respect and compassion. The â€œrightâ€ for these individuals to not be treated as property, as they are their own beings with their own reasons for existing here on this earth. I fully believe that every creature was put here on this planet to live a life free of slavery, free of torture, and free of oppression â€“ both human and non-human animals â€“ and so we must be afforded this right to live freely as such.
And to only regard the rights of one species as being important, or being the most important, is what is called speciesism. Speciesism is the discrimination in favour of one species over another, simply because it exists as that species, and for no other reasons. I think speciesism is what often counteractively creates that unflinching divide between the notions of â€œhuman rights versus animal rightsâ€. It is all the same thing.
We are all animals. Everything that happens here on this earth to one another affects one another, and, as humans, we cannot act independently under the badge of â€˜human rightsâ€™ without it affecting all those around us, and vice versa.
Iâ€™m not advocating for anti-humanism â€“ Iâ€™m advocating for the rights of all. There are many intersectional issues that affect other marginalized groups as well â€“ such as people of different sexual preferences, different races, or those who are differently abled.
Highly acclaimed animal rights philosopher Dr. Will Tuttle wrote an article calledÂ â€œThe Five Universal Taboos and Animal Useâ€, in which he proposes five universal taboos that humans do not tolerate against each other:
- Physically harming or killing others.
- Stealing from others.
- Harming others through sexual misconduct.
- Deceiving others.
- Forcing others to ingest drugs, alcohol, or toxic substances.
In our society, we work hard to ensure that humans enjoy freedoms from these five taboos.
However, then why do we condone, encourage, and sometimes celebrate these atrocities against non-human animals, when it comes to food, clothing, entertainment, vanity and other purposes?
What does this say about us as humans?Â What does this say about our efforts for social justice?
What Dr. Tuttle says is: â€œHow can we as a society expect that our efforts for social justice for ourselves can be realized while we are acting so heartlessly, unfairly, and violently toward those whose vulnerable lives we hold in our hands? How can we respect each otherâ€™s interests, when we donâ€™t respect the interests of billions of animals (and other humans), knowing that their interests are as important to them as our interests are to us?â€
I want to implore everyone on International Human Rights Day to open your hearts and recognize that weâ€™re all beings of this earth, and that every living soul deserves to be treated with respect and compassion rather than with neglect or harm.
We must all unite on the issues of the suffering of all beings, not just certain species, and recognize that we are all in it together on this Earth. We all feel suffering and pain. We all want to live. We are all here to live on this planet, and to thrive and enjoy life.
â€œAs long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures, there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.”
~ Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer