Why LGBTQA People Should Support Animal Rights
By Ernest Samudio, Director of Action for Animals Austin
Ernest Samudio has been a longtime activist. At 20 years old, he came out and began to work on gay rights and eventually moved into HIV/AIDS activism. He has been involved in numerous causes but focuses on animal liberation work. You can connect with him on Facebook.
I am gay and I am proud. I am also a proud supporter of animals rights! If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or an ally then I believe that you should also support animal rights too. Why? I see them as one struggle against injustice wherever it occurs or against whomever it is being directed, human or animal. I believe that turning a blind eye to how cruelly we treat animals allows homophobia to persist in our society. Allow me to explain.
We see the effects of how similarly we view animals and gays and lesbians in our society by what we seek to deny them. Gays and lesbians continue to fight for the right to marry, to adopt children and to be accepted. Animals are denied the most minimum protection in factory farms, labs, fur farms and in the circus industry. We have done the same to women and African-Americans in our nation’s history. We call those forms of discrimination, sexism and racism, respectively. Denying gays and lesbians their complete and full rights is called heterosexism or homophobia. When we treat animals as objects who can be owned, sold, bred and sold for profit, tested on, etc., we call that speciesism. None are acceptable and all are connected by the fact that they involve treating people and animals as “less than” who they truly are.
All of these forms of discrimination come from the same place. They originate from our human tendency to decide that how we are going to treat each other will be based on what our differences are. For example, women are treated differently because they are not men (men are the only “whole, complete beings”). African- Americans and Latina/os are treated differently because they are not white (white people are the only “whole, complete beings”). Gays and lesbians are treated differently because they are not straight (heterosexuals are the only “whole, complete beings”). And animals are treated differently because they are not humans (humans are the only “whole, complete beings”).
Rather than focusing on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or species, shouldn’t we decide that how we treat each other will be based on what we have in common with everyone else? Gays and lesbians and bisexuals and transgender people and African Americans and Latinos and men and women are all human beings. That is the one thing that connects all humans, from the person standing next to you at the bus stop, to the person across town, to the person on the other side of the planet. Similarly, what connects all humans and animals is that we are all living, breathing beings. We know animals experience emotions and suffer. We know that they care for and defend their young, and we know that sometimes they mourn their dead. We also know that animals can be very smart and self-aware. My point is that animals live their lives in many of the same ways we humans do and have many of the same interests.
Understanding the connection between other forms of discrimination and animal rights is becoming more common but African American author and Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker said it best when she said, “Animals were not made for humans any more than women were made for men or black people were made for white people.” Farm worker and labor organizer Cesar Chavez said, “I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society.”
How can you strengthen the gay/lesbian rights movement? Be an ally to all animals. You can start by not eating them. Going meat-free saves animals from suffering in factory farms and in slaughterhouses plus it’s good for the environment. You can start by eating a couple of vegetarian meals a week and working your way up to being completely meat-free. You can also buy cruelty-free product that are not tested on animals (look for the cruelty-free bunny logo on the side of the product). Also, don’t support businesses that use animals for entertainment such as rodeos, circuses and water parks like SeaWorld. Putting animals in cages for our entertainment is not a value we want to pass on to our children. Finally, don’t wear fur or leather. Killing animals just so you can wear their skin is shallow and selfish.
As we observe gay pride, I encourage you to celebrate how far we have come, recognize the work we still have left to do, and make our movement stronger by widening your circle of compassion to include all who suffer oppression — including animals. We can change the world but to do so we must remember that what humans and animals have in common is more important than how we are different.
For more information go to ActionForanimalsAustin.org or email us at email@example.com.