So­cial Jus­tice and Ethics

The ex­ploita­tion and slaugh­ter of an­i­mals is seen by many as a model and im­pe­tus for the op­pres­sion that peo­ple in­flict on each other.

Southasia - - Special Feature - By Anees Jil­lani

Pak­istan has few ad­vo­cates for an­i­mal rights and even fewer an­i­mal rights ac­tivists. And re­gard­less of their num­ber, most of them are fe­males. One won­ders if this is a co­in­ci­dence; or is it be­cause women by na­ture are kind-hearted while the men are cruel and born hunters of an­i­mals. The move­ment for an­i­mal rights is so novel in Pak­istan that few would re­gard it as an ef­fem­i­nate phe­nom­e­non but this is how many re­gard it in other parts of the world.

Pak­istan is a poor coun­try where two-thirds of the pop­u­lace makes less than two dol­lars a day. Re­sul­tantly, few can af­ford to eat qual­ity food and thus al­most all the poor end up be­ing veg­e­tar­i­ans not by choice but by de­fault; the meat is ex­pen­sive and nowa­days even the mid­dle class is heard com­plain­ing about the high cost of meat.

This acute poverty, cou­pled with the pa­tri­ar­chal na­ture of the so­ci­ety, re­sults in the women sel­dom get­ting to eat meat. The men prob­a­bly never ask the women folk at home to serve them the best por­tions of the food and meat, but the women at the ex­pense of their own nu­tri­tional re­quire­ments, pos­si­bly by sheer cus­tom, en­gage in such self-de­pri­va­tion be­hav­ior. The end re­sult is poor health of the girl child and a dis­torted male to fe­male child ra­tio; only 47% of the pop­u­lace con­sists of fe­males when this ra­tio is higher in most other coun­tries.

Why do the women de­prive them­selves of the meat por­tion in fa­vor of the men? Most will say that meat is nu­tri­tional and women thus con­sider the men en­ti­tled to it as they do the hard me­nial work out­side the home. But all men do not un­der­take me­nial work and the phe­nom­e­non is al­most uni­ver­sal.

The other plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion is that eat­ing meat is as­so­ci­ated with power; peo­ple with power al­ways eat meat. Men have power and eat­ing meat, be­ing con­sid­ered a mas­cu­line food, thus be­comes their exclusive pre­rog­a­tive. Women, treated as sec­ond class cit­i­zens, thus eat what is con­sid­ered sec­ond-class food.

The ques­tion is as to why meat is as­so­ci­ated with the males and power. Meat in­volves killing of an­i­mals and thus sym­bol­izes the pa­tri­ar­chal con­trol of an­i­mals. The op­pres­sion of an­i­mals can be com­pared with the op­pres­sion of women or for that mat­ter of other races, as hap­pened in the case of blacks un­der slav­ery.

Most of us be­lieve that ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of other be­ings is a nec­es­sary part of life, be it an­i­mals, women, races or the lower classes. It is for this rea­son many ar­gue that fight­ing for an­i­mal rights to­day con­fronts the same forces of tra­di­tions that once the past fights against racism and sex­ism did. There is a def­i­nite con­nec­tion be­tween the mis­treat­ment of an­i­mals and the mis­treat­ment of peo­ple.

The ex­ploita­tion and slaugh­ter of an­i­mals is seen by many as a model

Photo by the writer

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