The idea of animal rights is really pretty simple:
If you see a chicken, walking along, living her life, you are either kind to the chicken, or you leave the chicken alone.
You don’t grab the chicken, wring her neck, and then pluck, cook, and eat her body.
Simple. Not even a little bit controversial.
And yet, head to your local grocery store and you will probably be waiting a long time before you come across someone who is respecting this easy-to-understand idea.
Honestly, the people who actively want to exploit animals don’t have to do anything to keep the system going. But when they do, they don’t try to defend factory farming. They effectively play on emotions by arguing from edge cases. “Do you care more about this goldfish than your daughter (mother)? My research on this goldfish will save your daughter’s (mother’s) life!”
For all intents and purposes, everyone chooses their relative’s life. And with that, the idea of animal rights is broken just enough for the system to continue unquestioned.
This is why informed animal advocates don’t promote the simple but fragile intellectual position of animal rights.
Instead, we present specific examples. We tell the story of a particular chicken. We show videos of a particular factory farm and slaughterhouse. We leave aside words like “speciesism” or “carnism.” We don’t engage in hypotheticals of “your goldfish or your daughter.” It is simply: “See this chicken? She has a life. She has a personality. Please don’t make her suffer like these others. Please don’t support this brutal treatment. We’re not asking anything else. Just don’t support this cruelty to chickens.”
The necessity of avoiding abstractions and instead using concrete examples is also true for politics.
While many on the Left insist on making the perfect the enemy of the not-horrible, informed advocates know we have to persuade enough people in the squishy middle – people not on Twitter, people who don’t pay attention to politics or the news – to vote for the not-horrible.
Of course, the idea of bodily autonomy is very simple. In polls, it is supported by large majorities of the population. But just like the idea of banning the AR-15s that regularly slaughter school children, the idea of bodily autonomy will not win at the polls in the way we need to win in our messed-up system.
This is why we need our own examples. Our version of “this goldfish or your daughter” – a concrete example of “this blastocyst or your daughter.”
This is why we need to hold up examples like the ten-year-old six-week-pregnant abuse victim who had to travel to a different state for an abortion.
Don’t get me wrong. I am 100% in favor of absolute bodily autonomy. I will vote that issue as purely as the anti-choicers have voted on abortion for the last 50 years.
I also don’t think abortion is “icky” or something that should be “rare.” It isn’t a “necessary evil.” It isn’t “I personally oppose abortion, but….” It isn’t something non-politicians should shy away from.
Anything that can help women have more control over their reproduction is good. Anything that can help make every baby a wanted baby is good.
So I’m not arguing for a carve-out for ten-year-old girls who have been “abused.” I want nothing short of absolute bodily autonomy.
But like “animal rights,” “abortion on demand” and “bodily autonomy” are not a winning issues in our world. They simply don’t move the median voter to ignore gas prices.
On the other hand, an “abused” ten-year-old girl will move people. She makes the issue real. Her example cuts through gas prices and drag shows. Her case shows just how horrible the world really is and just how extreme the Republican position really is. That’s why we must hold up her clarifying case. Her example must be repeated, over and over and over.
- Republicans will force “abused” ten-year-old girls to give birth.
- Democrats don’t want the state to interfere with anyone’s medical decisions.
The Christian Taliban have played the game ruthlessly for half a century. They even voted for the least Christian / most loathsome person ever in order to get their judges.
Meanwhile, the Green Party and the Bernie or Busters and the give me free money crowd focused only on their own feelings, refusing to vote for the candidates who would have protected their fellow citizens’ basic right to bodily autonomy.
And now, millions and millions of Americans have lost the right to bodily autonomy. And things will get much worse as this court further imposes their theocracy.
This isn’t a game. This has never been a game. This has always been about life or death. If an “abused” ten-year-old girl can’t wake you up, can’t get you on Team Dem instead of Team Death, can’t show you who the real enemies are, well then, I don’t even want to know you.