“You always know the mark of a coward. A coward hides behind freedom. A brave person stands in front of freedom and defends it for others.” – Henry Rollins
The 4th of July is fast approaching and I’m thinking about the meaning of Independence Day, and how ironic it is that the majority of Americans will celebrate “freedom” by cheerfully grilling the bodies of animals who have suffered lives of unfathomable oppression and abuse.
Given our nation’s track record with regards to the disempowered, I suppose such hypocrisy could be considered par for the course. Tradition, even. Which is why it’s not too surprising to see the industry front group, Center For Consumer Freedom, portraying the consumption of animals on the 4th of July as a sort of patriotic tribute to the American Way — a celebration of our freedoms and “right to choose.” Freedoms which animal rights activists are trying to take away, they warn.
Now, like most reasonable folks, I believe people should be able to live freely and make their own choices…so long as those choices don’t directly harm someone else or infringe on their rights. As Colleen Patrick-Goudreau points out, the “choice” to consume animals is not an innocent one akin to choosing what color to paint your living room. It is an act of violence. And there are victims involved.
Whether they are aware of it or not, when carnists say, “Don’t tread on my right to eat what I want,” they are conveniently ignoring the troublesome fact that an animal is a who, not a what. And so what they’re really saying is: “Don’t tread on my right to tread on the rights of others.”
Not exactly a position worthy of fanfare and fireworks, is it?
“But animals don’t have rights,” some might protest. “How can I tread on their rights when they don’t have any?” True, animals do not currently have any significant legal rights, but they do have natural rights — rights which are, to borrow the words of our founding fathers, “inalienable” and “self-evident.” They have the right to live, the right to be free and the right to engage in their natural behaviors. In other words, they (like us) have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And who are we to deprive anyone of those rights just so we can “enjoy” a few licks of ice cream and a hot dog on a stick?
We need to ask ourselves: is needlessly enslaving and killing other animals – be it for pleasure, profit, convenience or tradition – in keeping with the principles of liberty we say we value as a nation?
This 4th of July, I hope more patriotic Americans will open their hearts and minds to what it really means to honor freedom and throw a veggie burger on the grill instead.