My response to the controversy surrounding PETA's Animal Liberation exhibit:
The purpose of the latest PETA exhibit was not to compare humans to animals. It was to show the parallels between human and animal SUFFERING and to remind people that at one time the exploitation and maltreatment of certain people was accepted, even though, in retrospect, we can ALL agree that it was completely immoral. There is nothing wrong or inappropriate about comparing human and (other) animal suffering. Animals feel pain (physical, emotional, and psychological) just like people do.
I have been a nurse for over 25 years and have devoted my life to helping people. When I see someone in pain or discomfort it's my instinct to try to alleviate that pain. That is the reason I became a nurse and it is also the reason I became vegetarian. I had always loved animals and rescued many cats, dogs, and birds. In the 80's I saw the Animals Film by Victor Schonfeld and Myriam Alaux. In it the horrors of factory farming, stockyard and slaughterhouse abuse and animal experimentation were exposed. I became a vegetarian overnight and have remained one since.
Many members of my mother's extended family (who weren't
lucky enough to escape from Europe in time) were killed in the
Holocaust. When I read about PETA's Holocaust on Your Plate
campaign I was not offended by the comparisons. In my opinion,
there are parallels we cannot deny. Suffering is suffering.
Compassion is compassion. It doesn't matter what particular species
of sentient being one is discussing. People need to evolve and to
start to look outside their little cubicles and begin to develop
compassion and respect for all forms of life. Gandhi, Albert
Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, civil rights activist Dick Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, Isaac Bashevis
Singer, and Alice Walker are just a few of the people who also
promoted this concept.
Philosopher Jeremy Bentham put it best: "The question is not: 'Can
they reason?' nor 'Can they talk?' but 'Can they suffer?'"
Rina's Recommended reading:
Commentary by Karen Davis, president of United Poultry
Letters to the Editor
Animal suffering similar to human slaves'
September 6, 2005
African Americans and other groups have expressed outrage over a PETA exhibit that compares animal slavery with human slavery. Yet not so long ago, anyone who dared to compare black people with white people in my neighborhood provoked similar outrage. As a 1960s civil rights activist, I fought with my parents and others incessantly over this point.
Now, as then, I uphold these dreaded comparisons. Reduction of a sensitive being to an object imprisoned in a world outside any moral universe of care links the human slave to the animal slave in laboratories, factory farms and slaughterhouses in ways that diminish the differences between them. Instead of bickering over who's superior and who's inferior, why not own up to the preventable suffering we cause and do what we can to stop it?
Resentment of comparisons between the suffering of humans and the suffering of animals in conditions of atrocity is not an isolated attitude, anyway. It's part of a broader psychology of resentment at having one's suffering linked with that of anyone else.
Resentment aside, it is reasonable to assume that animals in confinement systems designed to exploit them suffer even more, in certain respects, than do humans similarly confined, just as a child or a mentally challenged person might experience dimensions of suffering in being rough-handled, imprisoned, and shouted at that people capable of conceptualizing the experience can't conceive of.
Indeed, those who are capable of conceptualizing their own suffering may be unable to grasp what it feels like to suffer without being able to conceptualize it.
But even if it could be proven that chickens and other animals suffer less than humans in similar situations, this would not mean these animals do not suffer profoundly or justify harming them. Our cognitive distance from animal suffering constitutes neither an argument nor evidence as to who suffers more under horrific circumstances, humans or nonhumans.
If we cannot imagine what it must be like for a bird or a sheep or a cow to be placed in a situation comparable to a human being shoved in a cattle car packed with other terrified people headed toward death; if we cannot imagine how chickens must feel being grabbed by their legs in the middle of the night by men who are cursing at them while pitching and stuffing them into the crates in which they will travel to the next wave of terror at the slaughterhouse, then perhaps we should try to imagine ourselves placed helplessly in the hands of an overpowering extraterrestrial species, to whom our pleas for mercy sound like nothing more than bleats and squeals and clucks -- mere ''noise'' to the master race in whose ''superior'' minds we are ''only animals.''
Karen Davis, president,