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Opposition Confirms My Purpose

Opposition Confirms My Purpose
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“I found the minds of the people strangely indifferent to the subject of slavery. Their prejudices were invincible—stronger, if possible, than those of the slaveholders. Objections were started on every hand; apologies for the abominable system constantly saluted my ears; obstacles were industriously piled up in my path… What was yet more discouraging, my best friends—without an exception—besought me to give up the enterprise! It was not my duty (they argued) to spend my time, and talents, and services, where persecution, reproach and poverty were the only certain reward. My scheme was visionary—fanatical—unattainable… But opposition served only to increase my ardor, and confirm my purpose.”

~ William Lloyd Garrison (July 14, 1830)

We live in a world where the vast majority of people consider it perfectly acceptable to oppress and exploit other animals, despite the fact that we have no moral justification for doing so. Every year in the United States, approximately ten billion land animals are killed, after being intentionally bred and enslaved, all for human gain. Worldwide, the numbers equal approximately 56 billion annually. When we count animals who live in water, there are tens or hundreds of billions more every year.

All of these animals are as innocent as children, but we treat them as though being born as a member of a different species is a crime worthy of life in prison, often accompanied by torture, ending with the death penalty. In fact, for the vast majority of them, the lives they are forced to live are so unbearable that premature death – itself a severe harm – might conceivably serve as some kind of merciful release from a life of physical, psychological and emotional suffering.

Widespread veganism is the only hope these nonhuman beings have for emancipation from their brief, brutal existence. Such a fundamental change in our society will only be brought about by a radical moral paradigm shift similar to those which resulted in the abolition of human chattel slavery and the voting rights of women.

Moral paradigm shifts, however, do not cause themselves. They are caused by small groups of people within society – always considered “radical” in their own time – who persistently educate others over decades about why change is necessary. Indeed, William Lloyd Garrison founded The Liberator, a weekly anti-slavery newspaper, in 1831, and it wasn’t until after 34 years and the bloodiest war on United States soil* that slavery was finally abolished in 1865. Similarly, the women’s suffrage movement’s first well-known spokesperson was John Stuart Mill in 1865, but women were not permitted to vote until 1918 in the United Kingdom, and 1920 in the United States.

* Note that William Lloyd Garrison, the authors of this article, and the abolitionist approach to animal rights reject violence, and support only non-violent education and reasoned dialogue as a means to social justice, regardless of the cause.

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73 comments

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11:46AM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

Thank you for this article. If only the issue of eating flesh were personal, but unfortunately it is not, it is a matter of life or death for another being. Better treatment during life is more desirable than not, but in the end it is killing without consent, terrifying and painful. The continuous justifications remind me of the statement, "Why keep looking for the right way to do the wrong thing?"

7:17AM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

2:46PM PST on Mar 3, 2012

thank you for a good article!!!!

1:48PM PST on Mar 3, 2012

Please Care2, add a letter counter to these posts. I had some really funny things to say,,,

,,,anyway, someday, humanity may need those of us who are capable of killing an opponent w/o remorse (the universe is vast and dangerous). If that's what it takes to ensure your survival, then so be it,,,I love you and I will do whatever it takes for you to prosper,,,to the end of time,,,

1:42PM PST on Mar 3, 2012

I am not a vegan or vegetarian. I eat a paleo diet, in which most of my calories come from flesh and fat. It's the only diet I've found which allows me to control my diabetes. I literally cannot eat any grains and sugar is pure poison.

,,,on the plus side, I don't have to supplement my diet with zinc or vitamin B12.

,,,but that doesn't mean I don't understand that the animals I eat deserve to be treated with respect. As long as they are kept in clean spaces, fed healthy food and allowed to live well until they're cleanly (halal) killed for my sustenance, I have no problem with that. Fortunately, food animals usually have no prefrontal lobes (I think pigs DO, which is a good reason to remove them from the list of food animals), which means they are unable to anticipate their eventual demise and worry about it. For much the same rationale, I oppose using any apes, elephants, dolphins and whales as either food or experimental animals because they DO have such brain structures and can feel anticipatory fear. Like a trip to the dentist, anticipation of pain is often worse than the pain itself and I would not impose such on any critter but for those who live only in the moment, surprise,,,you're my dinner,,,

Ok, so, I'm a primitive,,,you'll just have to spend a few thousand years breeding that out of the species however,,,remember we have no idea what the universe has in store for us. Someday, we may meet another species more powerful and ruthless than us and humanity wi

3:47AM PST on Mar 3, 2012

stop exploiting animals! it's the only solution!

12:59AM PST on Mar 3, 2012

Thanks for the article.

4:51PM PST on Mar 2, 2012

Thank you for this excellent article. I am heartened by your openness and sane perspectives on not only activism, but also the problem of compassion fatigue, a very serious problem among those who work in any form of activism, but in animal advocacy especially.

So often, all we hear is how no one wants to be vegan, no one cares if animals have their lives stolen for a moment of flavor (yes, there are a few extreme exceptions in which plant foods may not be suitable, but those are no excuse for the vast majority to bring so much suffering and sadness (killing takes a friend away from someone, whether that friendship is between humans or non-humans. Science has proven that animals do have these kind of relationships, and anyone who's loved a companion animal knows that friendship first hand.) for something so insignificant and fleeting. One can live a healthy (many doctors, nutritionists, and other experts agree, healthier) life without animal products, so the only real value is flavor preference. Is that any reason to take a sentient life?

11:01AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

Sue H. “Not all animals raised for consumption are ill treated”

Although I am a vegetarian (vegan whenever possible), based on moral and health grounds, It is not my practice to criticise other people’s choice of diet. I do not preach nor condemn, but when I hear the claim that it is possible to sustain meat production with no possibility of ill-treatment I would prefer to see the evidence rather than accept this claim without question. Raising sentient creatures in the best of conditions is to be applauded. However, even when these standards are high, the process of transportation and slaughter is a different scenario. Perhaps if all meat eaters were to visit their local slaughter house, there may just be a few more vegetarians.

10:27AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

To Suzana M. ...just to make it clear, I meant it the other way around. I intended to make the statement that many have projections that lead them to think that others are judging them. So the projection for a meateater could be that a vegetarian thinks he is som much better than him (feel free to find any example in any kind of situation or society). Now, in this case that´s all in the meat-eaters head. And yes, my experience talking to vegans/vegetarians is that they are often very respectful of others views. I´m just trying to debunk the myth of the militant vegan (which kind of had it´s peak in the 90s). Veganism is certaunly about compassion (and how deep that can go also to other species, and th eplanet itself). So using aggression or a sense of superiority to mediate it´s cause would be rather counter-effective.

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