Peter Tatchell: ‘Cruelty is barbarism’

Peter Tatchell explains why he thinks our attitudes to animals and our attitudes to each other are linked, drawing parallels between human rights and animals rights.

By on 30 January, 2017 Filed in Features, Interviews, Opinions

Images: Peter Tatchell

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of The Peter Tatchell Foundation, is set to speak out against animal cruelty at an event in April. As guest speaker at VeggieWorld London, at 2pm on Saturday 8 April at Kensington Town Hall in London, he is expected to highlight how animal rights campaigners can learn from the successful campaigns of the LGBT community worldwide.

Previously, he has spoken on a number of issues, and recently spoke to school groups for the LGBT History Month Launch at the House of Commons, where he spoke about how LGBT campaigners can learn from the US black civil rights movement, including his own approach inspired by activists such as Malcolm X. Upon accepting the 2016 Royal Society of Art Albert Medal, he dedicated the award to the Southall Black Sisters who, he sayss, ‘have, for 37 years, championed the rights of black and ethnic minority women against racism, patriarchy and religious fundamentalism’.

Speaking exclusively to Vada, Peter today explains why he thinks our attitudes to animals and our attitudes to each other are linked, drawing parallels between human rights and animals rights.

Why do you think animal cruelty is analogous to homophobia?

Both are based on prejudice and ignorance, and both cause great suffering.

How can we do more to prevent animal cruelty?

We can boycott zoos and circuses and clothes made of leather and fur. I would not donate to medical charities that fund experiments on animals. We can also go meat-free or at least not buy food that comes from badly abused factory-farmed animals.

Are there ways to reduce animal cruelty without becoming vegan–or is that the best way to prevent animal cruelty?

We can all take steps to reduce animal cruelty by reducing our consumption of meat and other animal products. If you can’t give up meat, try cutting down. Don’t buy foie gras or eggs from caged hens.

How will you be marking LGBT History Month in February?

I am speaking at events all over England and I will be publishing some of the LGBT history that I have been a part of: helping with the UK’s first Pride march (1972 in London), exposing the homophobic Nazi war criminal, SS Dr Carl Vaernet (1998), and staging the first LGBT protest in a communist country (East Germany, 1973).

What do you think is the next challenge in the fight for human rights?

The next big human rights challenge we face is the threat to our liberty and privacy. To combat terrorism, criminality and illegal immigration, governments are creating systems of surveillance that could easily be abused by future less benign leaders. We already have CCTV, automated number plate recognition, police data bases and the state monitoring of our emails, phone calls and social media. I fear it is going to get much worse. People who give up liberty in the name of security deserve neither.

Here is a summary of my views on animal rights and human rights:

Cruelty is barbarism, whether it is inflicted on humans or on other species. The campaigns for animal rights and human rights share the same fundamental aim: a world without oppression and suffering, based on love and compassion.

For me, speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism and misogyny. It is a form of prejudice, supremacism and oppression that is incompatible with a humane, civilised society. We humans are an animal species, so why do many of us hold bigoted attitudes towards other animals and accept their exploitation and abuse in farms, medical laboratories, zoos, circuses and sports events?

In my mind, Animal Liberation by Peter Singer is one the most important books of the last 100 years. It expands our moral horizons beyond our own species and is thereby a major evolution in ethics.

By giving another being, whether animal or human, a prejudiced label, we give ourselves the ‘excuse’ to exploit, abuse, dominate or even kill that being. We stop seeing them as they really are, referring to them with terms such as ‘it’s just a savage animal’ or using the word ‘gay’ as an insult.

Before we can liberate the millions of oppressed humans and billions of exploited animals we will need to liberate our minds and start thinking in a new way. This means consciously eliminating the mentality of dominance and abuse.

The movement for animal rights echoes the movements against slavery and for women’s votes and LGBT liberation. We should oppose all suffering, including the suffering of other animal species who are also sentient beings and not hugely different from us humans.

We humans are animals, so human rights are a form of animal rights.

Image courtesy of Peter Tatchell

More information

VeggieWorld London takes place on Saturday 8th April and Sunday 9th April 2017 at Kensington Town Hall, West London. Admission to VeggieWorld London is by advance tickets, available on-line from January 2017, priced £8 for adults and £6 concessions, or on the door – £10 for adults, £8 concessions. Entry is free for children up to the age of 12 when accompanied by an adult. Visit veggieworld.de for more information.

Other VeggieWorld Events

VeggieWorld Berlin, 26th & 27th November 2016
VeggieWorld Lyon, 14th & 15th January 2017
VeggieWorld Rhein-Main, 3rd to 5th March 2017
VeggieWorld Utrecht, 11th & 12th March 2017
VeggieWorld Hamburg, 18th & 19th March 2017
VeggieWorld Barcelona, 1st & 2nd April 2017
VeggieWorld Paris April, 8th & 9th April 2017
VeggieWorld Düsseldorf, 9th & 10th September 2017
VeggieWorld Zurich, 29th September to 1st October 2017
VeggieWorld Munich, 16th & 17th September 2017
VeggieWorld Paris October, 14th & 15th October 2017
VeggieWorld Brussels, 21st & 22nd October 2017
VeggieWorld Hanover, 28th October 2017

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people.
Adam Lowe
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