Prevalent Perceptions on Animal Rights, and on Vegetarians & Vegans

I am not good with ultimatums. I once told myself, If anyone is anti-choice, I can’t be friends with him/her. But then I met someone anti-choice, and dammit I had to like her. She was kind and sweet and fascinated with astronomy. (Also I am convinced that in the future she will change her mind.) Granted, she wasn’t the “women who have abortions are the spawn of the devil!” type–she was sort of the quiet, well-I-would-still-keep-the-kid type. (And yes, I told her that was not her decision for another woman. She was like “Yeah… I know… but yeah.”)

Anyway, that didn’t work out: we’re still friends.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a line… somewhere. If anyone makes a rape joke, for instance, I’m dropping xir in a second if xe doesn’t learn to shut up, at least around me. And I have. Good riddance, because after a while it is really bad for my emotional health.

Lately, I’ve been feeling something similar when it comes to attitudes toward animal rights. I’m not talking about the “PETA is so hypocritical!” people–God knows I’ve criticized them myself, and for good reason. Nor am I talking about, “I can’t be vegan because I can’t afford it; why do vegans insist on forcing this on me without acknowledging we don’t all have that kind of class privilege?” because I have seen this happen, where a vegan will guilt-trip someone who isn’t, and it is an understandable sentiment to be irritated and pissed off. Most people can’t afford to be vegetarian/vegan and eat healthy.

Being a vegetarian, I don’t eat healthy. (This may also have to do with the fact that I’m a university student.) I can’t afford to eat healthy. I can’t afford organic, and I’m always drinking water so I don’t have to pay for food. Often, I forget to eat altogether because I much rather read or daydream and I’m so sucked in I don’t even realize I’m hungry. Whether I am putting my health in jeopardy is debatable. But that is my decision. I don’t believe I’m at any more risk than the average college student, and as far as I’m concerned meat is only good for protein and doesn’t make as huge a difference as everyone claims. This may or may not come back to kick my ass when I’m in my 40s.

In fact, part of the reason I understand the frustrations of omnivores whom vegans have attempted to violently convert through guilt-tripping involves more than class privilege. It unfortunately also involves a lot of health-policing, and I wouldn’t dream of doing that to people in the first place, but I especially wouldn’t because so many people have done it to me. “What are you, 93 pounds? How strong are you? You need to eat some good saucy meat.”

No, I don’t, thanks. And your tone is slightly creepy.

Sound criticisms are not bad for my emotional health. If these are your complaints, I am not talking about you; in fact I’m behind you one hundred percent.

Here is what I can’t tolerate:

Why is it that when a vegetarian/vegan does something like this it’s always representative? I don’t even talk about how I’m a vegetarian unless the subject comes up first–people generally don’t find out until we eat together, and still those who do eat meat go out of their way to eat it in front me, make jokes about animal rights (let’s give cows the vote hahaahaha!), and are able to do this with great convenience because they have the privilege of every restaurant catering to their demands.

But I was never all like, “OMG YOU MEAT EATERS ARE FUCKING DOUCHEBAGS! And I know this because this one time, I met one who was a douchebag.”

The most epic of times happened when a guy showed me a video of what appeared to be a male duck holding onto the feathers of a female duck with his beak and forcing her to stay there and have sex with him while she was clearly trying to escape, and the ass was like, “Arrest him for rape!”

Mocking the animal rights movement and rape victims at the same time. You’re still not funny.

I am serious when I say that it gets to the point when it’s a form of harassment. In real life, that is. When some weirdo follows you around with a plate and chanting, “Tasty tasty dead animals!” it is harassment. This triggers me. It evokes real pain. On the Internet it’s completely unavoidable and you just have to stop reading. After I left the last two paragraphs of this entry in the comment section on Feministe, there were people making jokes about how owning pets is slavery.

I’ve never heard a vegan say this. Ever. And I have to see my way out after that, because I am thinking of the terrible conditions in which farm animals are tortured and mutilated and you are comparing it to owning pets. You are deliberately distorting what I am arguing for to belittle the horrors of torture and mutilation for your own amusement.

Worse than that, is when people assert animals have no rights, and they are completely serious. The first person I heard say this was my high school economics instructor, who was a pretty decent guy except for the fact that he was an economics instructor. According to him animals are not bound by the social contract of civilization, and therefore are not entitled to rights. I also had a biology instructor who said God put animals here for our use, so that we can experiment on them. I’ve come across people who believe animals don’t consent (Dogs who think their opinions matter become dangerous!) and that they are incapable of feeling love or shame.

If has the ability to feel pain, it has rights.

I don’t know how this can be any clearer. Animals have rights based on experiences of pain. If it can be tortured, it has the right to not be tortured. Especially when the torture is entirely unnecessary and exists solely to feed sleazy corporate appetites. It’s astounding that there are people who don’t understand this. And if it needs to be explained to them, they probably never will.

I am not good with ultimatums. But if anyone persists with, “We have the right to do what we want because we’re smarter and LOL duck rape” I won’t put up with it.