20 February 2004

S. F. Sapontzis on Animal Liberation

Apparently, many people are offended when animal liberationists draw analogies between animal liberation and the various human liberation movements. For example, Leslie Francis and Richard Norman assert that "the equation of animal welfare with genuine liberation movements such as black liberation, women's liberation, or gay liberation has the effect of trivializing those real liberation movements," and Richard A. Watson adds that "Singer's claim that the struggle against the tyranny of human over nonhuman animals is a struggle as important as any of the moral and social issues that have been fought over in recent years is insulting to past and recent victims of moral and social oppression."

Unfortunately, it is not immediately obvious what makes a liberation movement "genuine," "real," or "as important as" other, certified liberation movements. If we were to judge by the number of suffering individuals involved, then the animal liberation movement is clearly more serious than any human liberation movement. We kill approximately five billion mammals and birds annually in the United States alone. That is many times the number of women and people of color in the United States. If we are to judge by how fundamental the interests being violated are, then once again, liberating animals is very serious business, since they are routinely tormented and mutilated in laboratories, are denied any sort of normal, fulfilling life in factory farms, and have their very lives taken from them in a vast variety of situations. Women and minorities do not suffer such routine, fundamental deprivations. If we are to judge by the moral, legal, cultural, and individual life-style changes that would be occasioned by the success of the movement, then once again, animal liberation is at least as serious an issue as the extension of equal rights to minorities and women. Liberating animals would directly affect our eating habits, clothing preferences, biomedical research industry, sporting business, and land use, thereby changing our current way of life at least as pervasively as have the civil rights and women's liberation movements.

(S. F. Sapontzis, Morals, Reason, and Animals [Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987], 84-5 [endnotes omitted])

No comments: