(CNSNews.com) – In a speech at the Animal Rights National Conference in Los Angeles in July, Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society, said all animals “have lives that matter to them” and humans must recognize that “the animals of this planet are here with us, not simply for us.”
“It’s our job as a movement to help them recognize that it’s not just the celebrity animals like Harambe and Cecil who have families, but all animals have families that matter to them. All animals want to live and want to be free from suffering just like you and I do as well – all animals – whether they be companion dogs have families or yes, prairie dogs have families, and yes, chickens have families too,” Shapiro said.
“These animals have lives that matter to them, and where do we get off treating them as if they exist just as mere commodities for us to exploit however we may want to. It’s time for us to recognize that the animals of this planet are here with us, not simply for us,” he added.
The Humane Society is considered the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization, according to its website.
Shapiro touted “some amazing transformations” over the past year in the animal rights movement’s “efforts to change the human-animal relationship.”
“Whether it was the killing of Harambe the gorilla in the Cincinnati Zoo after he appeared to be helping to try to protect a boy who had fallen into his enclosure and the massive outrage that poured throughout the world because of his senseless killing or the slaughter of Cecil the lion, putting a hideous practice into the spotlight, these cowardly American so-called trophy hunters who gallivant around the world to slaughter innocent and exotic wild animals,” he said.
In May, Harambe, a silverback gorilla was shot and killed to save the life of a toddler who had slipped into its enclosure. Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said Harambe was shot instead of tranquilized, because “that child’s life was in danger,” CNN reported on May 31.
In October 2015, a dentist from Minnesota killed a prized lion in Zimbabwe. Despite the outrage that followed, Zimbabwe decided not to charge Walter Palmer, because he had obtained the legal authority necessary to conduct the hunt, according to an Oct. 12, 2015 article in The Guardian.
“We saw the outrage that ensued because of that killing as well. Or the animal movement’s humongous victory after 145 years of exploitation of elephants, Ringling Brothers finally announcing that it’s getting rid of its elephants. These are tremendous flashpoints in our movement’s progress toward a more humane society,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said their goal was “not merely to reduce the suffering of animals on factory farms.”
“We want to prevent animals from going onto those factory farms in the first place,” he said. To achieve that end, he said, they need to help move people “from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet.”
“There are lots of ways to do this. Lots of ways. Our movement’s primary focus on this has been to try to persuade lots of individuals to change their diets,” Shapiro said. “At the same time, it’s also important, not just to change individuals, but also to change institutions.”
Ken Botts, food policy manager for the Humane Society, said his organization worked with over 20 universities in the U.S. last year as well as hospitals, K through 12 schools “and other types of institutional food service operations” training their chefs to create vegetarian meals.
“This training has now become one of the most impactful programs in our campaign,” Botts said, adding that their group will be doing its first training at a U.S. military base.
“Since the first training, we’ve trained so many universities that we can’t even keep up with it now. As a matter of fact, over the next three months, we have 14 of these culinary programs in place, and in two weeks – and this is really exciting news – we’re going to be doing our first training at a military base in the United States. So I’m expecting to hear something in the news from the senators in Iowa,” Botts said.
“By the end of the year, we will have shown over 700 chefs around the nation how to make plants taste great and take animals off the plate,” Botts added.
“Just like what Ken was talking about, in addition to getting individuals to change their diets. We can also get huge gains for animals in the institutional space – school districts, hospital chains, corporate cafeterias, the military, even prisons where they’re serving huge amounts of meat, and we can work with them to slash the amount of meat that they’re using,” Shapiro said.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, banning “meatless Mondays” from U.S. military cafeterias, according to a June 13 Huffington Post article.
“The U.S. military does not currently participate in meatless Monday, nor has there been any evidence that any branch intends to enforce it anytime soon,” the article stated.