Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Time to change "politics as usual" by putting animals on the national political agenda

In my past life, before I became a vegan, I would've been sitting in front of the television, completely wrapped up in the Midterm Election results. This is a particularly interesting election, with the Tea Party insurgency taking over the Republican Party, and the Democrats are about to suffer a grim setback to their great victory two years ago.

Truth is, I've become appalled with "politics as usual" ever since becoming a vegan and experiencing a heightened awareness of animal rights. Partisan politics has gotten to be so damned ugly. And it's ugly on both sides of the spectrum (although most of the ugliness, at this particular moment in history, is coming from the extreme Right).

Worse yet, neither camp - Democrats or Republicans - seem to be too terribly interested in the well being of animals. It's as if animals are not even on their radar.

Often, the Democrats seem to be more natural kindred spirits than Republicans. You're more likely, I'm sure, to find higher numbers of vegans among Democrats. Most animal rights activists, if they are political, are probably Democrats or somewhere on the left side of the spectrum.

But whenever I turn on the television and listen to the pundits and political talking heads discussing the latest happenings in the hallowed halls of power, I'm struck by the absolute absence - the total and complete absence - of animals on anybody's agenda, Democrat or Republican. Whether commentators are on the Left or Right, they're united by their rigid human-centric worldview.

Animal rights activists are often criticized for not being sufficiently pro-human rights. I've addressed this issue recently on this Blog (see here). For years, foes of the animal rights movement have accused us of not being concerned about human rights. That nonsensical claim has been discredited over and over again by thoughtful animal rights advocates. Maybe it's time for us to more aggressively turn the argument around and point out that the human-centric pundits don't care about animal rights. If they truly give a damn, they'd better start to show some genuine concern for animals.

I'm not just talking about the United States, either. The same thing needs to happen in democracies around the world including here in Canada. I often focus on the United States because I teach American History, I used to live in the United States (indeed, I've actually lived most of my life there), and I think that trends that occur in the U.S. have a way of rippling around the world because the country has so much influence. But these lessons are applicable elsewhere, including right here in Canada.

We get so immersed in our own subculture that it's easy to miss the fact that we have a lot of work to do. Getting animals on the national political radar is an uphill struggle. Brave animal rights activists have made great accomplishments and now the movement for the liberation of animals is taken very seriously in communities across North America. There is still a lot of work to do to get animals on the national agenda, but make no mistake: They are worth it. The key is to keep doing what we're doing, so that our subculture continues to expand, wins new converts and begins to exert real influence on the mainstream.


  1. great post

    I have to give a talk on whaling next week and this need for high-level political action is one of my points (not just the Sea Shepherd going it alone)

  2. I agree that the animal rights movement is facing an uphill battle and issues regarding the use of animals is entirely absent from the national debate. I think the reason for that though is that the vast majority of people see nothing wrong with using animals per se and inevitably that will be reflected in the political discourse.

    I think you are absolutely right in saying that most vegans and animal rights types are left-wing in their outlook. Personally, I am a right-wing libertarian and a supporter of the Tea Party's principals but I haven't met any fellow vegans who are even right of centre unfortunately.

    Your post is pro-democrat but I like it nonetheless.

  3. Thank you for your comments! Jomeo, I really appreciate meeting a libertarian! I actually consider myself a libertarian, too. I think pro-animal rights fits in perfectly with a libertarian worldview. It's great to meet someone else who has that outlook!