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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Animal rights and human rights: exploring the links Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Charlotte, Canada Jul 5, 2009
Animal Rights , Environment , Human Rights   Opinions


Animal rights and human rights: exploring the links (Wild (Portrait of Ruby, the artist's dog): picture by Carey Charles)

I've been a vegetarian for the better part of ten years now, and for someone who is only 20, that is a long time indeed. At first my choice was a weird cry for attention and a way for me to mark my independence from my meat-eating family. Then my mom and my sister went veg, so the initial plan totally backfired. However, over the course of the past ten years, I've had time to do plenty of research to support my decision not to eat animals, not to wear them or use products that were tested on them.

One of the most persuasive facts is that the methane caused by the meat industry is actually more harmful to the environment than the auto industry. In fact, a statement on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)'s website reads, “According to the United Nations, raising animals for food generates more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, planes, ships, trucks, and trains in the world combined." As someone who likes to consider herself a responsible global citizen, how can I possibly eat meat with this knowledge? Not only would I be killing animals, I would also be killing the planet, something I could not possibly do with a clear conscience.

There are human costs to global warming, particularly costs to women living in the Global South. Women make up 80% of the world's small-scale farmers (www.oxfam.ca). When the climate changes drastically, as it has been doing for several years now, these farmers have no other way to survive than to become dependent on foreign aid, which has its own problems attached to it.

When women are forced to walk longer distances to fetch food, water and fuel, they not only put themselves at risk of attack, but they also waste precious time they could be spending on getting an education or earning an income. Oxfam estimates that most women walk on average 6km a day to fetch basic supplies. For women in conflict zones this poses a serious risk to their safety.

Climate change doesn't only have serious environmental repercussions, but human ones too, especially on those humans who are the least responsible for the climate change in the first place. And climate change isn't just caused by burning fossil fuels, but also by huge factory farms.

Eating meat is not only cruel and inhumane, it's deepening the poverty lines between North and South and it’s causing serious harm to women who have probably eaten meat only once or twice in their lives.

It is often said amongst human rights activists that animal rights follow into a development agenda, but in fact animal rights should be the first step in any human rights agenda.



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Charlotte Sachs is currently spending her summer working as a Program Assistant of Public Engagement and Campaigns for Oxfam Canada. During the school year, she goes to Dalhousie University where she is taking a combined Honours degree in International Development Studies and Economics.

She is passionate about human rights, the environment and the possibilities of new media to create change.
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