I recently read a post on Change.org about the assumption that animal rights is a radical or extreme cause. Only a fraction of the population supports true animal liberation (not animal welfare), and even advocates tend to acknowledge that they are part of a “fringe.”
But if we step back from our preconceived notions, then the concept of animal rights doesn’t seem bizarre.
Animal rights, at its heart, is the most unextreme philosophy I can imagine. It is about nonviolence. It is about compassion. It is about not harming and not causing suffering and not killing when we don’t have to. That’s it. It is really, truly that simple. Indeed, perhaps it is even that simplicity that causes so many to mock the animal rights movement or dismiss it as silly or radical–because if they can marginalize it, they don’t have to acknowledge the simplicity of it or truly ask and answer why they don’t support it too.
From that perspective, animal rights is about values that nearly everyone holds. Given a choice between showing compassion and causing suffering, who would consciously choose the latter?
If compassion and nonviolence are not mainstream values, it is a sad world. If an individual’s choice to extend compassion in ways that, for example, contribute far less to mass suffering and death, contribute far less to environmental destruction and global warming, contribute far less to the problem of world hunger, and contribute far less to myriad health problems is extreme, we need to reconsider the definition of that word.