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Animal Rights Activists Are an Easy Punchline, But Their Cause Deserves Greater Public Advocacy

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ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
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My friend and founder of The Daily Banter, Ben Cohen, wrote a post today titled, Here Are 7 Causes More Important Than Animal Rights. I absolutely agree that all of the issues he listed are important, but as an animal rights supporter I believe there's more than enough room for an entire menu of important issues, including the moral and humane treatment of animals and the protection of endangered species.

Besides, it's not as if the U.S. government is somehow busily prioritizing animal rights at the expense of thwarting Ebola or the ISIS threat. Unfortunately, there's exactly nothing on the political docket with regards to protecting animals. So, it's unclear why animal rights activism needed to be taken down a notch. Let me know when a congressional candidate or incumbent mentions animal rights during the midterm and I'll post an update here. But it isn't going to happen.

Horrifying abuses to humans, animals and the environment by the American meat-packing industry -- a major contributor to Ben's number-one most important issue, global warming -- will surely continue. (Incidentally, abusive treatment of beef cattle can lead to diseases that harm humans.) Convictions for animal neglect and abuse won't be toughened any time soon. (Animal abusers are often spousal/child abusers, too, or worse.) And don't expect any government action to help protect, say, critically endangered gorilla populations in war-torn Africa -- say nothing of endangered species here in America, each of which invariably becomes a punchline by the anti-science far-right.

Knowing this, is there really any threat to Ben's "important" issues? No.

I get it, animal rights activists can be overzealous (most activists groups generally are), but perhaps they need to be in order to make a dent given the absence of legislative attention. Every issue needs a dedicated group of people who are willing to rattle some cages in order to bring awareness and attention to suffering, inhumanity and immorality. When it comes to animal rights, which doesn't enjoy a spot anywhere near the top 20 most important issues for voters, but which even Ben admits is "a good thing," doesn't it deserve focus and attention from someone? Doesn't it deserve to be someone's highest priority? Go to an animal shelter one of these days and tell me it doesn't need to be.

Speaking for myself and the short list of topics I cover here, I've chosen to write mostly about issues like presidential politics, journalism, national security and health care. Should I be scolded because I haven't written about Ebola or clean water? Should Ben? Likewise, why should anyone who thinks this issue is "a good thing" scold Pamela Anderson or Bill Maher or Sigourney Weaver for supporting animal rights? If you think Ebola is more important, then go out and campaign for the eradication of Ebola (gorillas, by the way, are being decimated by it). And if you really, really expect Anderson et al, or President Obama for that matter, to precisely validate your list of priorities, you're going to be gravely disappointed in life.

To repeat: there are enough issues to go around, and in the internet age, it's not difficult to find extensive reporting about each one. If you expect me or Ben to write about your exact list of important issues, you're visiting the wrong website. But you shouldn't be hard-pressed to find outlets that match your priorities. And Ben shouldn't be hard-pressed to find an extensive roster of legislators who are making his list a top priority as well.

For, against or indifferent, you have to admit this is an issue that gets ripped on all ends of the spectrum, whether by right-wing gun fetishists blasting away at woodland critters or by left-wing foodie hipsters shoveling foie gras and factory beef into their gullets while bitching that Republicans don't give a shit about climate change. For those reasons and more, there's no chance in the foreseeable future that protecting animals will become a major legislative priority. No one's smacking the burgers out of your mouths, America. Animal abusers will continue to be ignored or merely slapped on the wrist (or offered professional sports contracts). Ignorant morons will continue to pump cash into circuses featuring animal acts. And Dick Cheney types will always -- repeat, always -- be allowed to annihilate flightless birds for fun.

In the face of all this, there's nothing wrong with a group of people standing against torture and abuse -- there's nothing wrong with lobbying for humane alternatives -- there's nothing wrong with strongly, perhaps loudly advocating on behalf of the defenseless animals who exist at the receiving end of our collective selfishness and gluttony.

Cross-posted at The Daily Banter.

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