Other Vegan Views articles
Human and Animal Rights by Colin Edward Hicks, Vegan Views 18 (Winter 1978)

Nine out of ten people in this world consider human life infinitely more important and valuable than animal life. This belief has been indoctrinated over a period of centuries. Yet in the same world life is held cheaply in so many places. Till human life becomes dear everywhere there can be little overall hope for animals. When and if human rights becomes the rule, then animals will improve on their present status of degradation. I believe that without human rights first, animal rights will never come. In democratic-style countries where human life is valued more highly, rights for animals are generally better than elsewhere.

Even within a democratic society it is essential to realise that getting extra rights for animals takes time, people do not change overnight. It is a lengthy process to re-educate people who, providing animals are 'humanely' killed, genuinely see little wrong. Without backtracking aims must be realistic. Angling is cruel but several million in Britain fish regularly. You could not ban it because anglers would ignore the ban. Law is only enforceable if a large section of the population back it, even if begrudgingly. The only way to enforce a highly unpopular law is by brute force. If you decided to send soldiers to kill anglers who defied a fishing ban then this law would be rapidly obeyed. Trouble is then you are living in a military dictatorship.

Life in Britain has become cheaper in recent years. There has been a massive increase in violent crime, and tolerance to a sizeable minority is a four letter word. Political violence has emerged and both Labour and Conservative governements have quietly slipped in repressive legislation. We are under attack, not just the animals. It is essential we fight to retain human rights in Britain. With decent human rights both us and the animals have a chance. Without them we will have a hell of a time and no animal will ever see a green field. I'm still optimistic but it is useless being complacent any longer.

I will admit to possessing a certain amount of double standard. I believe Britain, even in 1978, is a decent and sane society especially by world standards. So if ever the crunch came and the democratic system was seriously threatened by either Marxism or Fascism I would fight. By that I mean, despite being by nature placid and peaceful, taking a self-loading rifle onto the streets. At the same time I am not prepared to take illegal direct action to save animals. I am selfish enough to want to stay out of prison as I value my freedom highly. I would qualify this: if I saw a man throwing a cat in the river I would try to stop him, if necessary by violence.

Direct legal action takes mental and physical courage but can only save a limited number. One piece of legislation can save millions. I understand frustration, I've seen hare coursing and feel bitter about the lack of enforcement of animal welfare law. Even somebody who puts 10p in an RSPCA box or takes a stray dog back to its home is doing something. Anything is better than nothing. I am amazed and horrified at some of the infighting amongst people who care about animals. Unity is strength.

The ultimate long-term answer has to be in human rights, re-education, and an acceptance that animal rights will only increase gradually. That is hard reality. We must use our resources better and learn from others. Amnesty International has a degree of success in a hostile world. Perhaps some of their methods can be adapted to help animals. The RSPCA is a large, respected and comparatively wealthy organisation. We must push it more for the animals. It is a potential Wooden Horse of Troy. What each of us do in the field of human and animal rights is for the individual to decide. The essential thing is to do it and remember we are all on the same side.

Related Vegan Views articles...
Cross-reference: Animal Rights