Message to the animal rights lobby: women aren’t vermin

These days a regular annoyance is getting an email from a petition-hosting organisation (having absent-mindedly signed up for their emails when you signed a petition once) asking you to free someone who’s been “caged” for so many years and opening the email and finding that this someone is an animal, not a human being. The other day it was a bear which had been held captive in an ice-cream parlour (?!) for some years. As someone who has been following (and sometimes participating in) the efforts to get the illegal prison at Guantánamo Bay shut down and the illegally abducted detainees sent home, or to a safe place, it’s offensive to see an animal compared to them, or to a person held when they are innocent. The animal rights lobby routinely indulge in this tactic: during the protests against live animal exports in the UK a number of years ago, one woman was seen on TV comparing them to trains taking people to the gas chambers.

Usually, the comparison is with abuse of women, and although the organisations are run by men, there is apparently no shortage of female fanatics willing to let themselves be assaulted or humiliated by way of comparison with the fur, meat or circus industries. The other day I saw a video of some animal rescuers putting a man head-first down a manhole, and at the mention of animals I immediately assumed it was a grown-up version of the schoolboy bullies’ game of putting a boy’s head down a toilet and flushing it, and I thought “hey, makes a change from humiliating women, but could you try campaigning without abusing anyone?”. But no, the man being put down the hole was actually rescuing a duck, but it shows how the likes of PETA have coloured people’s views of animal rights or rescue organisations.

Picture of a woman standing outside a stone cottage holding a baby. She is obviously frightened as she can hear the hunt pack approaching.The latest example is from the League Against Cruel Sports, who three weeks ago released a video, What if it was you?, showing a young woman hearing the hounds approaching, putting her baby in a cot and then fleeing through some woods before being overrun, climaxing with a scene of the woman lying on the ground terrified, while the hounds bark off camera, before cutting to the now motherless baby lying in her cot. This is a grotesque comparison. Foxes are hunted because they are vermin; chiefly because they menace livestock, particularly when they are too old and sick to hunt wild animals. There is cruelty around hunting, and I do not believe the claims that many foxes evade the hunt by going to ground (because they are known to dig them out) or that they only kill old and sick foxes, and it causes other problems for people living in the surrounding areas, but it’s still not comparable to the abuse of a human being and in a country where a woman is killed every two to three days by men, and where official figures showed last year that more than 1.1 million women reported domestic violence of some sort in 2013 (and that’s not counting unreported violence), comparing a form of cruelty that’s not currently happening much (and is currently illegal) against verminous animals to widespread violence against human beings is offensive.

The video is part of a long-standing trend to consider the welfare of animals as being of equal or greater importance to that of people, or even people’s lives — consider the campaign of intimidation against people who breed animals for medical research which is vital to save human lives, and when cornered about this fact, they often resort to eugenic arguments — essentially, let sick and disabled human beings die. The majority of civilised people the world over regard it as quite acceptable that animals be used for milk, meat, clothing and other uses by people as long as there isn’t unnecessary or gratuitous suffering caused, i.e. cruelty. Perhaps some people regard themselves as equal or inferior to foxes or rats, but if you don’t, and you don’t think that of friends of yours who have suffered violence or abuse (and you probably know a few), think carefully before you share a video that compares the murder of a woman by a group of men with dogs to fox-hunting. That difference — it’s a woman, not an animal — is not a minor detail.

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