Friday, March 9, 2012

"When they quit killing babies they can have every chicken I've got."

Recently, a Republican in the Georgia House of Representatives made a speech outlining his support for a state-wide abortion ban at 20 weeks (despite the high-risk status of most of these pregnancies). He proceeded to explain how he has helped deliver farm animals, and that it 'broke his heart' to see the ones that didn't make it. He goes on to tell his audience of fellow legislators that a man who opposed a law against cock-fighting once told him, "You tell those folks down there, when they quit killing babies they can have every chicken I've got." Rep. England referred to this man who fights roosters for sport as "salt of the earth people."

There is SO much wrong in this minute-and-a-half little verbal diarrhea episode that I hardly know where to begin. How someone with this little brain power and ability to think with any semblance of clarity or rationality could be elected to public office is astounding. Here are the problems with what this man said, as I see them...

The business of animal 'agriculture' is rooted in the same kind of mentality of domination and objectification that has allowed men to dominate and oppress women for thousands of years. I guarantee you that this man whose 'heart breaks' when a newborn calf doesn't make it has no problem eating the flesh of cows, pigs, or other animals on a daily basis. He may feel something in that moment of connection through participating in the birth of the animal, but ultimately is more driven by his desire for certain tastes and his belief that he is superior to and justified in using and killing other species for his purposes. He marvels at the birth of a calf--likely the product of his or her mother's forced pregnancy at the hands of humans--only to send it later to a life of servitude as a dairy cow, or slaughter for beef/veal. This doesn't sound a whole lot different from the way Republican politicians want to force women into pregnancy by limiting access to birth control and comprehensive sex education, restricting or banning safe, legal abortion, all while preaching about the sanctity of life... and then eliminating programs and assistance to these children once they're born. It's all connected. It makes sense that Rep. England thinks he has the right to determine what women can and cannot do with their bodies, since he thinks he has that same right over the females of every other species.

What saddens me most is that feminists without an understanding of interconnected oppressions, who themselves participate in the oppression of other species, rather than connecting the dots for themselves, more often than not will be driven to separate themselves even more from non-human animals. "I'm not a barnyard animal!" they yell. "Women are not cattle!" And in their attempts to elevate their own status, these women participate in belittling the status of their fellow creatures, creatures who are also sisters, daughters, mothers whose bodies are used and abused and seen as property, who experience physical and emotional pain, desire to live their lives peacefully and to seek pleasure.

But I digress. In what universe does helping a cow give birth in a barn qualify you to make decisions about what a woman can do with her own body? How does it make you more qualified than a personal medical physician to determine whether a high-risk pregnancy should be carried to term?

Let's move on to this "salt of the earth" man who told Rep. England that, "when they quit killing babies they can have every chicken I've got." First of all, anyone who abuses animals for sport is in no way "salt of the earth." Enough said. But this kind of twisted thinking in no way resembles logic. He forces animals to fight each other for sport and profit. This has nothing to do with his personal freedom and liberty. He is a profiteering sadist. It takes some sick and twisted thinking to equate a man like this with a woman making her personal decision about her own body and what's best for her and her family.

When I am challenged on my pro-choice position by those who find it inconsistent with my veganism (as one woman put it, "How come you think it's not okay to kill pigs, but you think it's okay to kill babies?!") My answer is simple: Nobody said anything about killing babies. Pigs, when they are slaughtered, have the intelligence and understanding of a human toddler. Nobody's talking about killing toddlers either. An unborn human fetus does not have its own independent life, or a developed brain capable of understanding its own life or experiences. A pig does. A cow does. Even a chicken does. I don't believe humans have a right to imprison female cows, impregnate them, take away their babies, and steal their milk anymore than I think men have a right to force human women to be pregnant against their will--or against sound medical advice. This seems consistent to me. When the debate is about whether or not we kill human 3-year-olds, if I say that's okay, then you can call my bullshit.

"No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother." ~Margaret Sanger, 1920