Like the nineteenth century movements to abolish human slavery and emancipate women, the contemporary movements in animal rights and prenatal rights move along parallel lines. Because similar moral principles are involved, the rational, secular, ethical debate over animal rights is beginning to resemble the raging debate over abortion. Animal-rights activists have even shown themselves to be "anti-choice," depending upon the issue. An article in The Animal's Voice Magazine, for example, states:
"Exit polls in Aspen, Colorado, after the failed 1989 fur ban was voted on, found that most people were against fur but wanted people to have a choice to wear it. Instead of giving in, we should take the offensive and state in no uncertain terms that to abuse and kill animals is wrong, period! There is no choice because another being had to suffer to produce that item. . . . I want to repeat that an eventual ban on fur would be impossible if we tell people that they have some sort of 'choice' to kill. . . . Remember, no one has the right to choose death over life for another being."
The anti-abortion movement and the animal-rights movement use words and phrases like "respecting life" and "compassion." Both compare the mass slaughter of animals and the mass execution of unborn children to the Holocaust. Both see their cause as part of the human-rights movement, and consider themselves as extending human rights to a disenfranchised minority.
Anti-abortion activists counsel young women on sidewalks outside abortion clinics. Animal-rights activists talk to "sport" hunters about compassion for other living creatures. Activists in both movements have even picketed the homes of physicians or medical researchers who perform abortions or experiment upon animals. The controversial use of human fetal tissue for medical research brings these two causes even closer together.
Both movements have components that engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, and both have their militant factions -- the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), and Operation Rescue. The popular news media usually depict animal-rights and anti-abortion activists as extremists, fanatics, or terrorists who violate the law. Each movement, nonetheless, has its intelligentsia: moral philosophers, physicians, clergy, legal counsel, and others.
Feminist writer Carol J. Adams notes the parallels: "A woman attempts to enter a building. Others, amassed outside, try to thwart her attempt. They shout at her, physically block her way, frantically call her names, pleading with her to respect life. Is she buying a fur coat or getting an abortion?"
The Fur Information Council of America asks: "If fashion isn't about freedom of choice, what is? Personal choice is not just a fur industry issue. It's everybody's issue." As in the abortion debate, lines are drawn. "Freedom of choice" vs. taking an innocent life. "Personal lifestyle" vs. violating another's rights.
Activists, no matter how sincere, are frequently accused of self-righteousness. Still, they continue to stir the nation's moral conscience, often using graphic pictures and videotapes of tortured animals or abortion victims.