A Dual Agenda
It’s time for the environmental movement to embrace the cause of animal rights.
The environmental movement is rightly concerned about global warming, diminishing wildlife populations, loss of biodiversity, clear-cutting of rainforests, the pollution of our rivers and oceans and the explosion of the human population.
But one important dimension is missing from our environmental agenda and that is the plight of the pigs, cows, cats, dogs, horses, monkeys and other animals that humans use for food, medicine and entertainment.
With this issue of Resurgence I call upon all environmental activists and organisations to remedy this and embrace the cause of animal rights as an integral and important part of the environmental movement.
There are a large number of animal welfare organisations rescuing and providing sanctuaries and welfare to wounded and suffering animals. This is laudable and good, but it is not enough.
We need to add the rights of animals to the welfare of animals. All animal life is endowed with intrinsic value; all animals have a birthright to live an undisturbed life of their own. Animal welfare organisations and activists also need to embrace this dual agenda – welfare and rights – in the same breath.
Thanks to our guest editor Heidi Stephenson, we have been able to produce this special issue with wide- ranging coverage of the subject. Heidi has invested a great deal of her own passion, commitment and hard work in commissioning and editing this issue, and I wish to express my deep gratitude to her.
And I will now invite her to introduce this special issue to you, our esteemed readers.
Building a bridge between the environmental and animal protection worlds.
It has been an incredible privilege to gather together these powerful voices. They are some of the greatest animal advocates of our time – and the people to whom I personally owe a huge debt, not just in terms of their generosity here, but for putting so many of us Animal Rights Activists on our paths in the first place. They were certainly my shining lights when I was stumbling around as a young activist in the 90s, looking for guidance.
I know you too will come away inspired.
Inevitably when you’re dealing with a subject as gargantuan and painful as the abuse and exploitation of fellow sentient beings there will be some uncomfortable moments, and some tears. There would be something wrong if people were not moved by Mark Gold’s compelling piece on slaughterhouses (one of the best articles I have ever read on the subject), or Jan Creamer’s stirring feature on animal experimentation; but you can rest assured that you are in very capable, warm and seasoned hands. No one is going to ‘assault’ or ‘accuse’. And the truth must be faced if we’re ever to change this.
There are also things to celebrate: Animals Asia’s work in China; Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals’ devoted life-saving in Egypt; Gudush Jalloh’s in Sierra Leone; Virginia McKenna’s success in getting Raffi and Anthea (two young lions who lived on top of a bar in Tenerife) out to Born Free’s sanctuary at Shamwari.
Jordi Casamitjana and other activists have managed to get bullfighting banned in Catalonia. The ban came into force in January this year. It’s an incredible, heartening achievement, after so many centuries of entrenched brutality. And Jordi’s now ready to take on the rest of the bullfighting world; a true spiritual warrior who has done Joao (the bull) proud.
There are moments of beauty too: Asian elephant artists enjoying their painting and securing their future in the process, Benjamin Zephaniah’s Luv Song, Sharon Howe on Franz Marc’s visionary empathy (interestingly, back in 1912 he observed somewhat sadly that his work would not be properly understood for another 100 years – and here we finally are), Richard Ryder’s illumination of an alternative path, Ingrid Newkirk’s dream of nonviolence including animals, Jonathan Balcombe’s and Marc Bekoff’s fascinating insights into animal minds and emotions (I didn’t know rats liked having their bellies tickled), Marc Bekoff’s powerful Manifesto, and Brian May’s inspirational campaign to save our badgers.
I hope by the end of reading this issue, Animals: A New Ethics, you will feel motivated and inspired. Let’s build a bridge between the environmental and animal protection worlds – and together make cruelty history.
Very many thanks to Satish and Resurgence, to fellow activist Rukmini Sekhar for planting the first seed with me last year, to our wonderful contributors, to the animal charities and campaigns organisations who do so much – and above all, to the animals themselves, without whom our lives would be infinitely poorer.