Mitch (not his real name) wonders if we can help him out.
He didn’t use the search function at the top right corner of this website.
“I recently got into a heated debate with someone about prioritizing human rights over animal rights. I personally feel that humans are more important than animals because we are the dominant species on Earth. Though humans cause a great deal of problems on this planet, if we change for the better we can also solve those problems. (Global Warming for example.)”
“I do, in fact, eat meat. I’m neither proud nor embarrassed of this fact. In an ideal world, though, I believe humans and animals can coexist without man killing animals for any reason. But when it comes to human rights (poverty, disease, human trafficking, civil rights, etc.), I’m sorry, those issues mean more to me than what’s happening to livestock.”
But OK sure, just for Mitch, I’ll address the age-old issue of human rights versus animal rights:
- You don’t have to choose. It’s easy to be a vegan human rights advocate.
- Human rights are linked to animal rights. Helping animals often winds up helping people, too. For example, eating lower on the food chain leaves more food for others to eat.
Mitch also says:
“I think a great deal of the perception that animals and humans are equal stems from people who haven’t suffered. Ask someone who has had their arms chopped off in Sierra Leone what they care most about, and you’ll probably hear something entirely different than a person from America where at times farmers have been told to stop growing food.”
Animal advocates have various motivations. Not all of them believe that animals and humans are equal. Here are a few different advocacy mindsets:
- Many do not believe that animals and humans are equal. Rather, they believe animals should not suffer at the hands of humans. Or, some believe animals should not needlessly suffer (see #3).
- Some believe that animals are not resources for humans to exploit. In their utopia, humans leave animals alone and do not interfere in animals’ lives, except for rescue situations.
- Some simply value animals’ lives. They determine that animals’ lives are more worthy of protection than human taste buds, human convenience, human curiosity, human entertainment, or other trivial human desires. They simply prioritize animals’ lives above most human justifications for animal exploitation, leaving a small window for animal exploitation in the cases of true human need.
- Many believe that animals’ interests deserve consideration. Some believe that consideration should be given equal weight to human’s interests, others believe animals’ interests deserve similar, but not equal, consideration as humans’ interests.
- Of course, some do believe that animals and humans are equal. But no one thinks animals deserve exactly the same rights as humans: no one is suggesting that animals deserve to attend public schools or that animals deserve equal employment opportunities.
- But remember, one need not believe in any kind of animal rights principle in order to eat a plant-based diet. One could ‘act as a vegan’ for purely health or environmental reasons.
*Reference to “animals” means “nonhuman animals” here and in most Vegan Soapbox articles.