|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
One of the most common and stupid reproaches to animal rights activists is: "As long as there is so much human suffering on earth, it is irresponsible to waste time and energy on animals. "Humans come first!"
Whoever makes this claim, proves two things: First of all, he does not know what he is talking about, and secondly, he is not one of those who really cares about people: Who really cares about people, cares about animals, too, and who really cares about animals, is also concerned about people. Ethics are not divisible. Humans come first is a cheap and mean pretext for doing nothing, either for animals or for people.
In reality, animal- and human-rights movements are one unity. You cannot free slaves or emancipate women or accept homosexuals or protect animals. We simply have to realise: The interests of a creature must not count less, just because it is a creature of a different group.
In real life a division of tasks is reasonable and obvious, as in the whole sector of non-profitmaking activities. That is why there is nothing wrong if some people concentrate on the interests of animals. As Gotthard M. Teutsch righty states, you cannot reproach a museum society by saying, that they are concerned about ancient art but not about elderly people!
In many fields love for humans and for animals can in any case go together very well. For example, no one is affected in his commitent to people by not killing and eating animals!
Furthermore, this absolute establishing of priorities such as "Humans come first!" is foolish and irresponsible. Let us look at the claim: "For our fellow-creatures we are more responsible than for foreigners." Maybe we can accept that as a behavioural rule in case of conflict. But would it not, as Teutsch states, be completely absurd to help foreigners only, if all our fellow-creatures’ needs are fully met! It also would be absurd to say:"I will give money for starving children in Africa only when all my children have their own TV."
Or let us take the really sensible priority: "Surviving is more important than equality." Even here, an absolute claim would be irresponsible. You will realise immediately, that reproaches like this are untenable: "How can we fight for the equality of women, as long as people in Africa mutually slaughter each other!" Absolute priorities are foolish and inhuman as you will easily notice.
Nor is It a question of abstract priorities but one where we personally are directly confronted with suffering and injustice. Arriving at the scene of an accident it would be out of place to say: "Unfortunately I cannot help, because elsewhere there are far more terrible accidents!" Obviously we have to act and help where we are confronted with suffering and injustice. And: With injustice towards animals we are confronted daily - on our plates.
Dr. Helmut Kaplan is philosopher, author of several books: "Philosophie des Vegetarismus" (1988), "Warum Vegetarier?" (1989), "Sind wir Kannibalen?"(1991), "Leichenschmaus" (1993) and "Warum ich Vegetarier bin" (1995)
translated by C. Reiter