Should Animals Have Rights?
Downtown Los Angeles is no stranger to protests. From the Women’s March to marches for immigration reform, residents have taken to the streets in demonstrations for various social justice causes, especially in recent years. On Saturday Aug. 10, however, Angelenos took to the streets for a different cause: animal rights.
Founded in 2016 by Surge Activism, a grassroots animal rights organization, the group’s website states the annual vegan marches are “driven with the mission of taking the animal rights movement directly to the streets in the thousands, united against the industries who exploit and use animals.” In 2018, over 28,000 attendees marched in 25 cities across the world.
To the indifferent observer, the hordes of people marching under the banner of “animal rights” can be confusing. Protesters wearing paper animal masks and following the direction and call of the organizers during the march might raise questions in some people’s minds about whether or not the fight for animal rights blurs the line between humans and animals.
Alex Ibarra, who was merely caught in the downtown area due to car troubles, expressed his confusion about the marchers’ message.
“People are unaware,” Ibarra said of the group’s ultimate message. “Everyone has the freedom to speak about how they feel, but you can’t stop someone from doing what they like. I [still] think humans have the right to eat animals.”
To the activists, however, fighting for animal rights means abolishing animal testing and the conditions of animals in the meat and dairy industry. The marches also promote vegetarianism and veganism, as well as environmental consciousness.
“Animals suffer, just like us. They feel a vast spectrum of emotions including love, joy, grief, fear and pain,” Surge’s website states. “Therefore it is our moral obligation to protect them from unnecessary suffering.”
Mike and Mia Caputo are a father-daughter duo who participated in the Animal Rights March. A lover of animals, Mia was a vegetarian for several years; but after recently being diagnosed with gastritis, she went fully vegan, which she said helped immensely with inflammation.
“Once you start, dominoes fall,” Mike said. “When I [became vegan], I started thinking of the volume of the killing and the carnage that goes on…that consciousness between that bite of the burger and knowing what it comes from—you can’t even stomach it.”
In addition to ethical reasons, many turn to veganism for environmental reasons. A 2018 study by the University of Oxford, published in Science Magazine, reviewed data from nearly 40,000 factory farms in 119 countries. The study found that eliminating animal products from one’s diet can reduce one’s carbon footprint by 73 percent.
Lead author of the study, Joseph Poole, writes that, “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”
The L.A. Animal Rights March is one part of a global movement, with over 25 cities involved around the world. On Aug. 17, the Animal Rights March will continue in London, England.