Chime in Regarding Definition of Animal Rights
The pamphlet I’m composing:
Thinking Critically About Animal Rights:
What you need to know, what you need to question
isn’t for you. Sorry. It’s for someone who thinks vegetarians eat chicken, vegans are communists, all animal rights advocates belong to PETA, happy meat rocks, and animal people are misanthropes. Again, that’s not you.
I’ve been doing some personal, anecdotal research, having discussions with educated, intelligent, mainstream individuals who purport to "love animals" to observe the patterns in the questions and responses, and there is remarkable similarity in the way the discussion progresses. I feel confident that I’ve hit the major issues (thought there is variety in the order in which they are raised, and I could argue for a handful of sequences).
Here’s a sort of protocol problem: I am defining Animal Rights as I see it (based on my own impulse, beginning at age 14 with the conundrum that if we eat cows we should be eating cats, and the theory of rights and property developed by Professor Gary Francione). Everyone talks about the definition of AR that they subscribe to, and let’s face it, they’re different. And certainly the strategy for achieving AR has at least two major camps, as well.
Oh, and the problem: I wrote the following, very close to the beginning . . .
When most people refer to animal rights they are talking about one right only: the right to not be owned by another–not be the property of another. If an animal cannot be your property, you have no right to use her in any way: not as food or clothing, and certainly not for your entertainment. (See the work of Professor Gary Francione at www.abolitionistapproach.com for a thorough explanation of the importance of the property status of nonhuman animals.) People who believe in animal rights, then, are necessarily vegans: those who try their level best to live their lives without using animals.
The problem is that that’s the definition I use. And for many other people, those who believe in AR don’t have to be vegan. This quandary is easily resolved with the phrase: "For the purposes of this pamphlet, animal rights is defined as . . . . " Does that make it sound like what follows will be a narrow, infrequently used definition that the rest of the world doesn’t agree with? Our moral baseline might be veganism, but as you all know, much of the world thinks that’s "extreme."
And, related, what do you think about the word "most" at the beginning? I could say "abolitionists," but I’m trying to be as clear, simple, and accessible as possible. Though I bring in the term abolition later for a moment, I think it would be a mistake to start with it, as the target market is someone who might close their eyes and ears when they encounter it.
I ask for your input here because the purpose of the pamphlet is to think about terminology, ask questions, challenge authority, and educate yourself before you say you’ve found your own place within this issue. It would therefore be inappropriate to say "Animal rights is" (definitively) anything.
If you’ve ever written a book, you know that the most difficult part to write is usually the beginning, and it’s the last thing you should attempt, because you don’t know how to introduce what you’re going to say until you’ve already said it. Having written most of my pamphlet, I know how important it is to not sound like I’ve already made a decision for the reader, or that my belief is the only one or the right one.
My experience tells me that most people do what they do out of habit and ignorance. If they knew more about the origin of their food, or if they seriously considered the phrases "humane farming" and "humane slaughter," or if they learned what’s behind the handful of magnificent thoroughbred horses they saw each year, they might alter their behavior. They might develop new habit patterns based on knowledge of the facts or approaching the issues with a different lens. That’s my goal.