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Animal rights: It’s time Indian leftists embraced the well-being of non-human creatures too

The list of everyday cruelty towards animals in India is endless. But apart from a handful of animal rights activists, we never see any great outrage from people on the Left who are working on issues concerning oppression.

ALOK GUPTA:The term “leftist” means different things to different people. But broadly it connotes a set of features that transcend time and place under a wider umbrella of progressive politics… Traditionally, the Left was hostile to the non-human environment, sometimes with adverse consequences. Mao’s four pests campaign in the fifties, in China, is an egregious example…

More recently, the Left has finally set aside its fascination with industrial modernity and recognised the importance of the environment and the impending threat of climate change. Indian leftists and media outlets that lean Left routinely mention deforestation and conservation in their analysis of post-liberalisation India.

One topic, however, still seems outside the sphere of concern of Indian leftists: animal rights… The list of everyday cruelty towards animals in India is endless. It happens everyday, and is often highlighted in the press, but apart from a handful of animal rights activists, we never see any great outrage from members of civil society, or from people on the Left who are working on issues concerning oppression…

We believe it is time for that omission to be corrected… We now feel the need for progressive politics to take the final step towards recognising this definition of animal rights: animal rights is the idea in which some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests – such as the need to avoid suffering – should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings…

The idea of social justice today combines the battle for personal freedoms with economic justice, and extends the idea of equality to income and livelihood, against the excess of capitalism. But these battles are restricted by what the Canadian political philosopher Will Kymlicka calls “human supremacism”. The challenge for the progressive movements now is to extend the doctrine of equality beyond humans.

The American philosopher Martha Nussbaum defines animal rights as the final frontier of rights among disability and immigration – but we don’t need to use finite terms. Animal rights can be the new frontier of rights, where we see humans also as the animals that we are, and redefine a new politics that speaks for all sentient beings’. SOURCE…

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