6 Things Animal Rights Groups Should Never, Ever Do

I’m passionate about animals, and animal rights. I believe that all animals should live safe, loved, happy lives, and that people should treat animals with respect and compassion. I oppose experimentation on animals. I become extraordinarily angry when I read about violence directed at animals, or cases of neglect, and I believe that the way people treat animals says a great deal about who they are and how they view the world.

But I also believe that there are some things animal rights organisations and groups advocating for the welfare of animals should never, ever do. These are things that undermine their own cause, make it harder for people who care about animal rights to get work done, and make anyone who cares about animal welfare issues look absurd. They’re also things that make me want to immediately drop sponsorship and support, a feeling shared by many former supporters of groups that can’t seem to get it together on creating a functional strategy for what should be a common and simple goal: Protecting animals.

1. Comparing Animal Abuse to the Holocaust

No. I can’t believe I even have to say this, but no. 11 million people, including six million Jewish people, were killed during the Holocaust, in unbelievably brutal and horrific ways. The Holocaust was a genocide that targeted entire classes of people for elimination. While animal abuse is awful, it it no way compares to the Holocaust — whether we’re talking about abusive slaughterhouses, or individual abusers, or laboratory research. If you compare anything other than the Holocaust to the Holocaust, seriously, shut up and go sit in the corner.

2. Comparing Animal Abuse (or Ownership/Guardianship) to Slavery

Again, this should be an obvious no. The only thing that compares to slavery is slavery. An untold number of people, estimated to be in the millions, were involved in the slave trade; many died on the crossing over the Atlantic, and many more died horrific and awful deaths on plantations in the US and the Caribbean. We are still living with the effects of slavery and the African diaspora. Slavery was disgusting, repugnant, foul, and vile. Nothing compares to slavery. Ever. Animal abuse is dreadful. But it’s not slavery. And I’m not even going to touch the ‘having animals is like slavery’ argument, I’m just not. That goes for working animals, too. By all means, let’s have a discussion about the abuse of working animals, but never, ever, compare them to human slaves. Companion animals and working animals are a wonderful part of society and they belong here too — animal rights shouldn’t involve an elimination of animals.

3. Attacking Fat People

This one’s for you, PETA. Seriously though, what the fuck? How does attacking fat people in any way advance the cause of animal rights? PETA’s infamous for its ‘provocative’ campaigns revolving around pushing people to go vegetarian (and preferably vegan) in order to avoid becoming, oh horrors, fat, but these campaigns don’t actually serve the cause at all, and they’re disgusting. It should be possible to advocate for the rights of animals without tearing down the rights of a class of human beings.

4. Advocating Euthanasia Over Adoption/Refusing to Euthanise in Any Circumstances

PETA is known for a policy of preferring to euthanise homeless animals over adopting them out, which is quite frankly bizarre — I don’t see how murdering animals that could be rehomed to loving families serves the greater cause of animal rights. A good adoption programme should start with spaying/neutering and vaccination, and end with animals finding a forever home — and PETA’s attitude that death is preferable to life with a new family is disgusting. Conversely, though, groups that absolutely refuse to euthanise in any circumstances are doing animals no favours either: There are cases in which animals are in such extreme pain and suffering that failing to euthanise constitutes a form of abuse. I don’t believe that animals with treatable conditions should be abandoned, but I don’t believe in needless suffering, either. Having lived through the advanced stages of cancer with two beloved cats, I know first-hand what terminal illnesses and suffering look like, and it is not pretty.

5. Being Self-Righteous

I, too, was once a self-rightous vegan and obnoxious animal rights advocate, so I know that of which I speak, here. You win no followers by being a moralistic jerk insisting that your way is the right way and that you’re better than everyone else because you’ve reached an enlightened state with respect to your relationship with animals. People at all stages of thinking should be welcomed, even if someone isn’t as ‘radical’ or ‘committed’ as you are. Would you rather connect on common ground with someone who’s advocating for humane slaughtering and respectful farming techniques, or throw that person out of your little club because she eats meat? Which is better? Supporting bills that will reduce suffering for animals, though they might not eliminate it, or retaining your self-righteousness?

6. Debating the Mental and Social Standing of Animals

This is an incredibly tricky issue. Do animals communicate, form social connections, feel pain, and experience emotions? Of course they do, and anyone but the most hardened and ridiculous of human beings should be able to identify and acknowledge that. However, reams can be written and argued about whether humans and animals are morally equivalent, the ‘intellectual capacity’ of animals, and more. These debates aren’t productive, and they can go off the rails fast. Focus on promoting the rights of animals as living beings, setting aside the debate over whether they’re just like humans. That’s not important: Respect for life is what matters.

I want to see greater protections for animals in our society. I want to see animals living safe lives, and I want to see them respected, honoured, and loved. I don’t want to see the animal rights movement trashing human beings and making what are honestly rookie mistakes as it clumsily crashes about trying to achieve better conditions for animals. This is ridiculous, people. Get it together.