Why, oh why, do we continue to insist on handling difficult issues and challenges in black and white, either/or terms? Why do we approach problems as jobs vs. environment? People vs. animals? Species vs. individuals? Rich vs. poor? You vs. me? Us vs. them?
I’ve seen a lot of either/or thinking lately. The recent issue of E Magazine has a commentary raising the issue of the “greenie wars,” pitting environmentalists against animal protection advocates. (Though there is a blurb at the very end suggesting both/and solutions may be possible….sometimes..maybe.)
The U.S. Supreme Court recently voted against whales and for the Navy, refusing to consider restrictions that would have “required the Navy to reduce or halt underwater sonar pulses when marine mammals might be nearby.” Another either/or approach.
And, a big brouhaha has come from the passage of Prop 2 AND Prop 8 in California. Prop 2 will now require the phase-out of gestation crates (for pregnant sows), veal crates (for male calves) and battery cages (for egg-laying hens), meaning animals raised in factory farms in California will endure just a little bit less suffering. The passage of Prop 8, however, has overturned the California law which allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry. Some gay and lesbian activists, and their supporters, have been incredibly outraged that voters chose “animal rights” over “human rights.” Bloggers and news outlets have been running headlines like “Chickens 1, Gays 0” and “Californians Like Chickens More Than Gay People.” Of course, it’s incredibly upsetting that Prop 8 passed, and while issues of human and animal oppression are deeply connected, the fact that rights for gay and lesbian folks were thwarted this time doesn’t mean that protections for animals should be also.
Author and President of the Institute for Humane Education (and my boss), Zoe Weil, recently wrote a post about this either/or perspective.She says:
“But it is wrong and disingenuous to compare these two propositions. If homosexuals were forced into cages for the duration of their lives, mutilated and abused under horrendous conditions, all to please the tastebuds of consumers and line the pockets of agribusinesses, and then a proposition to give them a bit more space before they were slaughtered failed to pass, well then we could rightly say that Californians care more about chickens than gay humans. But comparing Prop 2 and Prop 8 is like comparing proverbial apples and oranges.”
“…we should not compare the torture of other sentient beings to a rejection of gay marriage. Such a comparison fuels either/or thinking, lack of compassion for other sentient species, and narrow thinking. We need just the opposite to create a more thoughtful, just world.”
Author Mark Hawthorne shares similar sentiments in his essay for the American Chronicle. Hawthorne notes:
“Abusing animals is always wrong, just as discriminating against humans is always wrong. Why should one oppressed group express their anger by targeting another oppressed group? (I don´t believe there are any beings on this planet more oppressed than farmed animals, who are bred, raised, confined, mutilated and slaughtered at a rate of 55 billion per year worldwide.)”
“Moreover, the very fact that people are picking on Prop 2 rather than one of the many other measures on the California ballot underscores the low regard many people have for the animals they eat. After all, no one is complaining that voters care more about veterans than gays because Prop 12, the Veterans Bond Act, passed, or that people care more about children than gays because Prop 3, the Children´s Hospital Bond Act, passed….While gay people have a voice, animals inside factory farms do not: they rely on compassionate individuals to speak out for them. I can only hope that the same people who are disparaging the passage of Prop 2 will see that demeaning animals does not further gay rights … that human liberation and animal liberation are inextricably linked.”
It’s important that we use our creativity, critical thinking skills and ability to connect, cooperate and compromise to find solutions that work for everyone. It usually takes a bit longer, but it helps bring us closer to that compassionate, sustainable, peaceful world that we’re seeking.
Filed under: animal protection, human rights, third side thinking, Uncategorized | Tagged: animal protection, critical thinking, either/or, farmed animals, gays and lesbians, human rights, oppression, problem solving, Proposition 2, Proposition 8, third side thinking | Leave a comment »