I proudly call myself a human rights activist. I’ve attended marches for women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and immigrants. I even donate to numerous human rights organizations. But when it comes to my activism, I don’t draw a line between humans and animals. Nope. I believe in equality for all beings, which means animals too.
I believe animals deserve to live free from harm. It’s why I went vegan a few years ago. When I learned about how the meat, dairy, and egg industries treat animals as mere objects, I knew I couldn’t support it.
How could I? I mean, I spent weekends and nights fighting for the rights of my fellow humans, for people treated as “less than” by society. How was this any different than animal rights? I realized there was no distinction between the two causes. Oppression is oppression, regardless of species.
Fortunately, I quickly learned how veganism was connected to human rights issues I cared deeply about, such as feminism, racial equality, and immigrants’ and workers’ rights. Don’t believe me? Here’s how:
Exploitation of Female Bodies
The meat, dairy, and egg industries continually exploit female bodies for milk, eggs, and reproducing new animals to use, mutilate, and kill for human consumption.
Consider this: Cows in the dairy industry are repeatedly and forcibly impregnated to ensure a constant supply of milk. Their young are ripped away from them within hours of being born. Female calves are forced into the same generative cycle, while males are slaughtered for veal. The suffering this all causes is immeasurable and indefensible.
The meat, dairy, and egg industries have a long history of racial discrimination. In fact, populations near factory farms are often low-income communities of color. These farms pollute the surrounding areas so badly that residents suffer a host of illnesses.
A 2002 study examined more than 60 factory farms in Mississippi and found that most were located in low-income areas with a high percentage of people of color. Similarly, a 2005 study found that in North Carolina low-income areas had seven times more hog farms than affluent ones and that communities of color had more than five times more hog farms than predominantly white communities.
Immigrants’ and Workers’ Rights
Poultry processing is one of the most dangerous jobs, with more than 27 workers a day suffering amputations or other injuries severe enough to require hospitalization. With high demand for “processing” large numbers of animals per day, workers are sometimes denied bathroom breaks. Some have even resorted to wearing diapers. Additionally, slaughterhouse workers have been found to suffer from PTSD and illnesses caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
With an unknown percentage of undocumented workers, the meat, dairy, and egg industries prey on vulnerable people. According to a recent Vice article, “The Department of Labor officially puts the number of undocumented farmworkers at 46 percent, but industry experts and labor advocates estimate that the number is much, much higher—possibly closer to 70 percent.”
Many undocumented workers are reluctant to go off the farm for fear of being caught and deported, a fear reinforced by demeaning or intimidating comments from their supervisors. Some workers remain on the farms for more than 11 days at a time.
Part of the Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Unfortunately, this isn’t true in our world, for both people and animals. It’s why those of us who care about creating a better world must speak up.
Sadly, cows, pigs, chickens, and fish raised and killed for food are subjected to a nightmare of abuse: extreme confinement, horrific mutilations, and violent slaughter. Many farmed animals never see the sun, feel the grass, or breathe fresh air. Instead, they are imprisoned in windowless, filthy sheds until the day they are loaded onto transport trucks destined for the slaughterhouse where they will meet a gruesome death.
So I challenge you, my fellow self-proclaimed human rights activists, to open your hearts and minds to animal rights. By doing this, we can create a more just and compassionate world.
Start making a difference today by leaving all animal products off your plate.