Because other animals are sentient they have the right not to suffer unnecessarily. They have the right to their life. They have the right to be free of human oppression. The most significant problem that they face is their legal status as human property. Dating from the time when we first domesticated other animals, 10,000 – 12,000 years ago, we have regarded ourselves as their owners. We control their lives and we are legally entitled to treat them as we wish. We profit from them in such numbers that they are thought of as commodities or inanimate things instead of sentient beings like us. They are spoken of as ‘it’ and ‘things’ instead of ‘him’ or ‘her’ or ‘someone’. They are referred to in terms of ‘crops’, that are ‘harvested’ at a ‘factory’, yielding a ‘kill out weight’. Fishes and chickens are not even counted as individuals; their only value being the weight of their bodies and the profit to those who exploit them.
Rights are about equal consideration and respect. Rights are secured when we embrace and celebrate difference, when we take cognisance of the equality of those we don’t know individually or who are distant from us, and when we recognise that in all the ways that matter, we are essentially all the same.
This has been true in securing women’s rights, civil rights, and other human rights. Now it is the turn of the other animals to secure their rights.
You can be part of this, the most important social justice movement of our time, beginning with the simple changes in your life that make you vegan.
The word vegan was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson. The name was derived from the first three and the last two letters of the word ‘vegetarian’. Living vegan was promoted as a way of living that avoided the unnecessary suffering entailed in all use of other animals. It sought to eliminate the suffering and injustice on which vegetarianism is predicated by the fact that it avoids using other animals for their flesh but does not claim that animals use per se is morally wrong or that the suffering entailed in the consumption of eggs, dairy, and honey or in using other animals as clothing, or in entertainment or research is unacceptable.
“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
But veganism has an older history than 1944. This is based on the philosophy of Ahimsa or non-violence towards other animals and the earth. In this sense, veganism is so much more than a diet or lifestyle. It is a way of living that embodies peace.