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Peaceable Journey

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    The basis for peace is respecting all creatures. We know we cannot be kind to animals until we stop exploiting them -- exploiting animals in the name of science, exploiting animals in the name of sport, exploiting animals in the name of fashion, and yes, exploiting animals in the name of food.

Cesar Chavez, American Civil Rights Activist

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Given that we domesticated these animals, doesn’t that give us the right to use them?

This question harkens back to one that is even more basic: whether or not anyone has the "right" to use or own anyone else, and if we think so, what the basis of this right might be. It may be helpful to ask ourselves if we believe parents have the right to use their children because they brought them into the world. Or if, during the era of human slavery in the US, we believe slave owners had the right to use those they had enslaved because they had captured them and forcibly brought them to America, or the right to use the America-born children of those individuals originally taken by force from their own land.

Does having the power to control or dominate other sentient beings, even at the level of causing them to be brought into existence, somehow convey the right to use those individuals against their will, for whatever purpose? "Might makes right" is a principle most people reject and recognize as being the cause of injustice and misery throughout human history. How is claiming that domestication conveys the right to use another being any different than saying "might makes right?" Domestication always involves control, which might include everything from breeding in captivity, artificial insemination, confinement and genetic manipulation, to the "breaking" of the independent will of an individual.

Consider what has taken place over the course of human history when cultures possessing more powerful technology have used that power to dominate and even destroy indigenous cultures. How do we feel when learning the truth of what happened when these tragedies took place? For those who live in countries that possess powerful technology and weaponry, it may be hard to imagine the sense of vulnerability and helplessness experienced by those from cultures that have been dominated in the past or are being dominated now.

As an ethical matter, does the ability to control another person, group, or species also convey the right to do so?

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Frequently Asked Questions

Given that we domesticated these animals, doesn’t that give us the right to use them?

What about indigenous people who kill and eat animals, but do so in a way that respects the animal's spirit?

My religious tradition doesn't forbid killing and eating animals, so that makes it okay, doesn’t it?

Conscientious objection
Non-violent social change
Path of conscience
Privilege of domination
Values-based activism


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