Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Vegan Theory: Pet vs. Food Animal

The pet-animal/food-animal dichotomy in animal rights theory is similar to the madonna/whore dichotomy in feminist theory.

In feminism, the notion that women fall into one of two categories, either 1) a pure virgin or mother (madonna) or 2) a whore, is a myth perpetuated by religion, government, and popular culture. In reality, all women are some of each and more. Women are complex individuals and should not be assigned different rights and treatment merely based on which false category they fall into.

Likewise, animals labeled and treated as pets fall into one category whereas animals labeled and treated as food fall into the other category regardless of actual, true differences between the nonhuman animals. In the US, Americans generally view dogs as pets and pigs as food although both species are very similar and each individual is unique. In China and Korea, dogs are often viewed as food because, like pigs, they are generally relatively docile and thus easy to breed, confine, and slaughter.

The myth in American culture that dogs are pet animals while pigs are food animals helps foster both racism and specieism. Americans often view the practice of slaughtering dogs as barbaric and cruel while the practice of slaughtering pigs is considered normal and natural. Americans can develop a hatred of Chinese and Korean people and culture rather than examining their own assumptions about nonhuman animals as well as their assumptions about races and cultures different than their own.

How many people do you know who care deeply and passionately about dogs, yet continue to eat animal flesh?

In this and countless other ways, animals rights and human rights are linked. The tools used to create and sustain hate (or the behaviors that resemble hate) are similar. The justifications used to rationalize hatred (or behavior that can be interpreted as hatred) are the same: difference.

Any real or perceived difference becomes reason enough to justify evil behavior. The differences between humans and nonhumans, the differences between dogs and pigs, the differences between men and women, the differences between Americans and Chinese all differences are merely that, differences. They are not reasons to behave immorally. They are not justifications to hate.

Hatred is wrong regardless of who its aimed at.

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