Even PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk admits “We’re divided”
The long-awaited introduction of RU-486-based contraceptive dog and cat food has been delayed for at least 36 years, and may have been permanently forestalled by the use of RU-486 as Mifrepristone, the drug used to medically induce abortion, as ANIMALS 24-7 recently detailed in What RU-486 means for animals.
However, while most animal advocates might welcome access to contraceptive dog and cat food, this issue and the issue of access to abortion for human females are scarcely one and the same.
The animal rights movement, representing a cross-section of mainstream secular American society, is not “officially pro-choice,” but is divided on abortion.
All-star lineup on the pro-life side
In a 1992 interview on Dennis Prager’s conservative talk show, when specifically asked about the animal rights position on abortion, Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), admitted, “We’re divided.”
Former television game show host Bob Barker is a conservative Republican and an animal activist. Tony LaRussa of the Animal Rescue Foundation is a political conservative.
Vegan labor leader Cesar Chavez was pro-life. Vegan civil rights leader Dick Gregory was pro-life. Former Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy, a devout pacifist, has expressed opposition to abortion, and in the 1980s was critical of Reverend Jesse Jackson for having changed sides on the issue.
“Pro-Animal, Pro Life”
Dixie Mahy, past president of the San Francisco Vegetarian Society, has been vegetarian for sixty years, vegan for forty of those sixty years, and identifies herself as pro-life-and-pro-animal.
Matthew Scully, a conservative Catholic and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, identifies himself as “Pro-Animal, Pro-Life.”
Catholic Concern for Animals is pro-life-and-pro-animal. Reverend Frank Hoffman’s All Creatures Christian vegan website is pro-life-and-pro-animal.
Compassion for animals is a fundamental tenet of the Baha’i faith, which endorses vegetarianism, says abortion is more a matter of individual conscience, but concludes, without taking a position on abortion, that life should not be destroyed.
“Animals are like children”
John Stuart Mill wrote: “The reasons for legal intervention in favor of children apply not less strongly to the case of those unfortunate slaves — the animals.”
Animals are like children.
Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, famously assigned ASPCA attorney Elbridge Thomas Gerry to prosecute a woman for child abuse in 1873 under the then existing New York state law against cruelty to animals, at a time when children had no legal protection.
Although the case was won in court on other grounds, it led to the first documented U.S. conviction for child abuse, and was instrumental in advancing the causes of both animal and child protection.
Feminists For Life
In Christianity & the Rights of Animals, the Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey writes: “In some ways, Christian thinking is already oriented in this direction.
“What is it that so appalls us about cruelty to children or oppression of the vulnerable, but that these things are betrayals of relationships of special care and special trust?
“Likewise, and even more so, in the case of animals who are mostly defenseless before us.”
When told the animal rights movement is divided on abortion, Serrin Foster, executive director of Feminists For Life, said understandingly, “The Children’s Defense Fund is also divided on abortion.” Feminists For Life includes many vegetarians and vegans. Serrin identifies herself as a vegetarian.
Hinduism, Buddhism, & Jainism
From 1992 through 2003, James Dawson, raised Catholic and now a Buddhist, published Live and Let Live, a pro-life / animal rights / libertarian newsletter. The ancient eastern reincarnationist religions Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism all predate Christianity, all oppose abortion, all teach ahimsa, or nonviolence towards humans and animals alike to the point of vegetarianism, all are vegan-friendly, and all teach that abortion and war are the karma for killing animals, and that therefore, we cannot end abortion nor bring about world peace until first we abolish the killing of animals.
This knowledge, however, does not rest with everyone. Not all pro-life-and-pro-animal people advocate the reincarnationist strategy for ending abortion and bringing about world peace. Shay Van Vlieman, founder of Vegans For Life in the late 1990s, said she doesn’t expect to see a vegan president in her lifetime: she would just be glad to elect a president who will work to overturn Roe v. Wade. And she insists she is not a Republican, but a libertarian!
Also during the late 1990s, Rachel MacNair, a Quaker pacifist, feminist, vegan, and past president of Feminists For Life, moderated an email list for pro-life vegetarians and pro-life vegans. Rachel is now a psychology professor, and has written several books on nonviolence.
The “consistent ethic” movement
Vegan congressman Dennis Kucinich, one of the most liberal members of Congress as a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from 1997 to 2013, was pro-life throughout most of his political career.
Pro-life vegetarians and pro-life vegans are found within the “consistent-ethic” movement: pro-lifers opposed to capital punishment. A significant number of “consistent-ethic” Christians were or are vegetarian or vegan, among them Rose Evans, Ruth Enero, Rachel MacNair, Albert Fecko, Carol Crossed, Bill Samuel, Mary Krane Derr, Mary Rider, and Father John Dear.
Mary Rider, a practicing Catholic, in 2002 wrote in Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a “consistent-ethic” periodical:
“So we teach our children to walk softly on the earth and to embrace nonviolence as the only legitimate means of conflict resolution, on both a personal and a global level. We are aware of the excessive, privileged life we lead as educated, first world U.S. citizens, and of the responsibilities to which our privilege calls us. We try to live simply. We eat low on the food chain. We try to buy nothing new… We try to respect all life and carry that message forward in all we do… Because we value people and relationships over things… First world consumption kills people around the world… Pollution, environmental devastation, corrupt governments, war, sweatshops… all are a are a result of our desire to buy more at a lower price… We believe each person has a right to live a valued and respected life free from hunger and discrimination…”
“How do abortion advocates — warning about overpopulation consuming the world’s resources — justify consuming animal products?”
The threat of overpopulation is frequently used to justify abortion as birth control. On a vegan diet, however, the world could easily support a human population several times its present size. The world’s cattle alone consume enough to feed over 8.7 billion humans.
Even if abortion advocates argue that shifting to a plant-based diet, a vegan diet isn’t enough to stave off the effects of overpopulation, in light of data showing depletion of energy, fresh water, land space, raw materials and resources, as well as the heavy contribution that humans make to air and water pollution, deforestation, and global warming, how do abortion advocates — warning about overpopulation consuming the world’s resources — justify consuming animal products?
Vegetarianism is not about following sectarian diet laws
Christians sometimes regard vegetarianism as a sectarian dietary restriction, like “keeping kosher,” rather than seeing it as a universal ethic for all mankind, such as abstaining from cannibalism.
But Leonardo Da Vinci, Count Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw, Susan B. Anthony, Percy and Mary Shelley, Rosa Parks and many others were vegetarian, and none of them were Jewish, Muslim, or otherwise obliged to follow sectarian diets.
If vegetarianism were merely about “fit,” or following a peculiar set of “dietary laws,” why would some pro-lifers be offended by pro-choice vegetarians and pro-choice vegans?
Clearly, they are offended because they know vegetarianism involves the animals’ right to life, and thus these pro-choicers appear to value animal life over human life under some circumstances. And issues such as animal experimentation, circuses, and fur have nothing to do with food, but do involve animals’ right to life.
“If I want to be authentically and consistently pro-life, I should give up eating meat”
For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action offers an introduction to animal rights ethics within Christianity, alongside directly related sanctity-of-life issues, such as the possible rights of unborn children. The book’s foreword is written by Mary Eberstadt, a senior fellow with the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
Eberstadt, a Catholic, identifies herself as “Pro-Animal, Pro-Life.”
Author Charles Camosy responds to criticisms from Animal Liberation author Peter Singer and the late Princeton medievalist Lynn White, Jr. (1907-1987) that misinterpretation of “human dominion” (versus compassionate stewardship) is responsible for the current ecological crisis.
Camosy indicates that Christianity cannot be blamed if humans with their imperfections distort their own religious teachings, that Christianity did not give rise to the industrial revolution, and that real Christianity — as it was meant to be practiced — is at odds with market-driven ethics and mass consumerism (a point made decades ago by liberal Protestant theologian Dr. Harvey Cox).
Camosy concludes: “I became convinced that, if I wanted to be authentically and consistently pro-life, I should give up eating meat.” Dozens of books have been written on Christianity and animal rights. Camosy merely provides an overview of animal ethics in Christianity.
“A commitment to helping the vulnerable”
Steve Kaufman, head of the Christian Vegetarian Association, was raised Jewish, and is now serving in the United Church of Christ, America’s largest pro-choice Protestant denomination. Steve expressed interest in Democrats For Life, his only reservation being whether Democrats For Life favors criminalizing abortion. Some animal advocates and activists (like Catholic vegan columnist Colman McCarthy) oppose abortion, but don’t think criminalization is the answer.
In 2004, on the Democrats For Life email list, artist Maria Krasinski mentioned a poll which found animal activists evenly divided on abortion. This either indicates animal rights really are a bipartisan cause, which conservatives can support alongside liberals, or it indicates many liberals are uncomfortable with abortion.
Kristen Day of Democrats For Life in 2014 observed that, “Roughly a third of the Democratic Party is pro-life. And while many do not call themselves liberal, they share the values which seem to identify with liberalism, particularly a commitment to helping the vulnerable and providing a social safety net.”
[Vasu Murti, author of A Source of Inspiration: Krishna Consciousness and the Judeo-Christian Tradition and They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy: Animal Rights and Vegetarianism
in the Western Religious Traditions, describes himself as “a writer and activist, born and raised in Southern California in a family of South Indian Brahmins,” who holds degrees in physics and applied mathematics from the University of California, and “is a regular contributor to Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a ‘consistent ethic’ publication on the religious left.”]