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October 04, 1991 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-10-04

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Is Animal Rights a Jewish Issue?


obody is afraid of
the big, bad wolf
at Linda Gale's
home. That's be-
cause the concept
of the big, bad wolf does not
exist there — not in songs, not
in storybooks, not in bedtime
Instead, the Gale children
learn that wolves are
graceful animals and loving,
protecting parents — much
like humans. They learn
that rats feel pain and
should not be regarded as
appropriate for medical ex-
perimentation. They learn,
in their mother's words, that
animals "have the right to
live a life free of suffering
and to exist regardless of
having any value to
Mrs. Gale's 5-year-old son,
Eric, a vegetarian, recently
expressed concern about his
leather shoes. He asked,
"Why do we wear dead
animals on our feet?"

OCTOBER 4 1991

For Mrs. Gale, the issue is
not animal welfare as pur-
ported by institutes like the
Humane Society. The issue
is animal rights. Animals,
activists believe, are no less
a life form than humans, and
consequently deserve the
same civil rights as man: the
right to a peaceful life free
from molestation and ex-
ploitation, the right to self-
expression, the right to be
regarded worthy in and of
Increasingly, Jews play a
prominent role in the animal
rights movement. They are
active in organizations like
PETA (People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals).
With 280,000 members,
PETA is the largest animal
rights organization nation-
wide; its members last week
began picketing General
Motors because of the com-
pany's use of animals in
vehicle safety tests.
Altogether, animal rights

advocates are said to
number some 11 million.
A number of specifically
Jewish groups for animal
rights — including CHAI
(Concern for Helping
Animals in Israel) and JAR
(Jews for Animal Rights) —
also exist. There are numer-
ous Jewish vegetarian
societies in most Western
nations, and British Jews
publish a quarterly
newsletter, The Jewish
Vegetarian, whose logo reads
"For a Vegetarian World."
Peter Singer, author of
Animal Liberation, the bible
of the animal rights cause, is
Jewish. So are the heads of
the Vegetarian Resource
Group, the Farm Animals
Reform Movement and Psy-
chologists for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals. Jews
also hold top positions in the
Animal Legal Defense Fund,


Assistant Editor

the Student Action Corps for
Animals, In Defense of
Animals, Trans-Species
Unlimited and the Medical
Research Modernization
Linda Gale calls animal
rights "the cause of the
1990s." Roberta Kalechof-
sky, who in 1986 founded
Jews for Animal Rights,
labels animal rights "a Jew-
ish issue." Both agree it is a
cause that has influenced
and been accepted by gen-
eral society.
"Maybe years ago people
thought it was strange when
I talked about animal
rights," Mrs. Gale said. "But
it's not a fringe group
anymore." Friends eagerly
attend her "no-fur parties"
and never question her fre-
quent trips around the coun-
try to attend animal rights
rallies, she said.
A 1990 Parents Magazine
poll confirms Mrs. Gale's
statement. Eighty percent of

those surveyed said they
believe animals have rights.
Activists trace the modern-
day animal rights movement
to the 1975 publication of
Animal Liberation by Peter
Singer. The book advocates
vegetarianism, offers
gruesome details about how
chickens, cows and other
animals are raised for
human consumption, and
denounces the use of
animals in laboratory ex-
Mr. Singer, an Australian
professor, likens the
animals' situation today to
the plight of Jews in Nazi
"Then, as now, subjects
were frozen, heated, and put
in decompression chambers,"
he writes. "Then, as now,
these events were written up
in dispassionate scientific
Animal rights is an issue
which rarely elicits a
lukewarm response. People

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