Monday, April 11, 2011

Like us, they are somebodies, not somethings.

The title is a quote from Tom Regan, Ph.D. The video embedded in this post is from about 12 years or so ago. Dr. Regan talks about animal rights and when I first saw the video about a year ago I was very impressed with the clarity of his arguments. I also was (and still am) curious about what my reaction would have been to his talk if I had heard (and watched the video) around the time it occurred.

At that time I was oblivious to the notion of animal rights and of abolition. I had been following a vegetarian diet (for the most part...but not totally rigorously) for a number of years. I followed such a diet 75% because I thought there was something vaguely wrong with killing and eating other beings and 25% because I thought such a diet was healthier. I was vague about the wrongness partially because I really didn't have any kind of framework in which to think about my feelings of the wrongness of eating "animals" except that I was "sensitive". And, quite often, I had been advised of, and teased about my "sensitivity" about animals...since childhood.

One way I look at my journey through life (especially the "adulthood" part) has been to discover that many of the ways of thinking and feeling that I had as a child...that were given up because of messages from trusted authority figures and from the culture...were in fact true and good and worthwhile. And while I thought I was giving them up to become "adult" what I actually was doing was abandoning my core self in order to "fit in", to "conform", to not be "weird", to be "socialized", to behave the way others and the culture wanted me to behave and think and feel. So I could be a "productive" "citizen". It sort of embarrasses me to write this, but what the hell, it is true and I can't change it. I mostly saw myself as an unsuccessful pretender to being what I thought I was supposed to be. No great shakes at being a "regular" guy, in fact pretty poor at it actually...and often anguished over my failure at this task.

Some years ago though (with the help and support of a number of remarkable human animals and a lifetime of support from other animals) I sort of gave up on most of that "regular" stuff and started trying to "go with my own flow" so to speak. Life became, in many ways, much more enjoyable...and at the same time much more difficult. Someone once observed that Americans pay a lot of lip service to the notion of individuality but if you actually go out and try it you will get identified as an eccentric and treated as if there is something sort of wrong with you.

For those of you who are living as ethical vegans, this is not news and for those of you who are still not there yet...one of the "benefits" of living vegan is that you will most likely be pegged as "weird" by a large number of folks. You definitely will be getting out of step with many marching tunes that are played by our culture. But...you will be benefiting your fellow Earthlings, yourself and your planet. To me, that's well worth being "out of step".

More information about Tom Regan can be found here, and here. A more recent video of him speaking can be viewed here.

Now caution is advised, there are scenes of animals suffering, painful to view...but they are generally brief and integrated fairly well into what is being said. For those who avoid all depictions of cruelty I would urge you (especially if you have never heard this speech) to try to watch the video anyway. I think it is a hell of a speech and if you aren't familiar with some of the philosophical underpinnings of animal rights...this is a great introduction to them. Here is a professional (he makes a living at it) philosopher (we're all amateur philosophers) explaining why all animals (yes, that includes human animals) should share some of the same basic rights.



All sentient beings deserve the chance to live their lives however they choose. The most important way to help ensure that is to live your life as an ethical vegan. Please begin to do so if you haven't already. Thanks.

9 comments:

D.E.M. said...

Going to watch it.
Going to get some water and come back and watch it :)

And, yes, we are all philosophers!!

My four-year old is always asking, "who made the world? who made me? did you also make daddy?"

veganelder said...

Thank you DEM for commenting. Your four year-old has some cool questions. Thanks for sharing them. I look forward to your impression of the video.

Have Gone Vegan said...

Thanks for the video. I'm not familiar enough with his work, so will aim to correct that!

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting H.G.V., I just sort of liked the video. His delivery was interesting to me...of course the content of what he was saying is potent.

dirtyduck said...

beautiful post VE. thanks for being so candid.

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting dirtyduck (terrific!). I appreciate your saying that.

Bea Elliott said...

I absolutely love TR and his clear message that no one sould ever have a problem understanding, rings true for me all the way through! I've watched this video at least a dozen times, as well as his class lectures. His measured words are like music to my ears and heart! Of course I've sent these along to countless nay-sayers. I always hope they will watch, but I doubt they do. I suppose they are the "super muddlers". :(

"But I am an extremist when it comes to rape — I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to child abuse — I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to sexual discrimination, racial discrimination — I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to abuse to the elderly — I am against it all the time." Tom Regan

Thanks for this post highlighting a true champion of justice and compassion.

Bea Elliott said...

Oh darn! I just realized I missed half your post... The best half too - Where you describe how you had a hunch something wasn't quite right with eating animals... Where you said you were teased for being "overly sensitive" about them... And this - That when you follow your own individuality your often viewed as "eccentric".

Boy! That's my tune too! I always felt I just "knew" inside that what (or rather who) I was eating wasn't right... But without a voice of support and agreement - It became an annoyance that's easy to just ignore. Bury it. Put it away. All to simply "fit in".

As a teen I went in/out of a vegetarian diet too... Family/friends thought I was a loony kid. Even then, the site of them eating meat was repulsive... I thought such acts should be done in a secret dark closet somewhere. Totally vile to me. Of course, the only way then (for me) was to "accept" it, become "one of them" so that I wouldn't/couldn't mark these distinctions any longer. I copped out. :(

Too many years later when I started to see that my individuality, feelings, wants and desires was more important than any ridicule or ostracization they could cast my way - I finally became "my own person". A non-conformist, sure. An "eccentric"? Absolutely. If being thoughtful, consistent, fair and compassionate is what sets me apart "from them" - I wave my freak-flag proudly! Glad you do too veganelder! Wave it high!!!

veganelder said...

Thank you for your great comment Bea. I am glad you are in the world (and many other animals are too)!