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We Must Oppose Injustice to Animals: RIP, Desmond Tutu

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The South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu, who died at age 90, fought against apartheid, poverty, racism and homophobia, and his campaigning wasn’t restricted to humans. His stance on animal rights was also inspiring.

In the foreword to Andrew Linzey’s The Global Guide to Animal Protection, he wrote the following:

I have spent my life fighting discrimination and injustice, whether the victims are blacks, women, or gays and lesbians. No human being should be the target of prejudice or the object of vilification or be denied his or her basic rights. I could not have lived with myself, as a Christian and a bishop, if I had looked the other way. But the business of fighting injustice is like fighting a multi-headed hydra. As one form of injustice appears to be vanquished, another takes its place. Even if the path of progress seems interminably long, we can content ourselves with the sense that injustices to other human beings are at least on the agenda, or mostly so.

But there are other issues of justice – not only for human beings but also for the world’s other sentient creatures. The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda. It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice should not be overlooked.

I have seen first-hand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged.

We can all continue Archbishop Tutu’s legacy by speaking out loudly against all forms of discrimination and oppression, including speciesism.



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