Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kim Davis, Fishing Licenses, and Pigs

A friend recently posted this on Facebook. It was shared from the wall of Occupy Food, where it has over 14,000 likes. In case you've been living under a wifi-blocking rock, this is a reference to Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who, citing religious and moral principles, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even though federal law now requires her to. It's meant as an anti-Kim Davis, and anti-vegan, joke: See how crazy the world would be if we all followed our idiosyncratic beliefs instead of the law? The comments at Occupy Food show this; and the internet is full of different memes and cartoons making the same point. 

The truth is that what is moral and what is legal are not always the same. The founder of Toronto Pig Save has been charged with trespassing for giving water to dehydrated pigs in transport trucks on the way to the slaughterhouse. She's a Christian. Being told it's against the law won't stop her because she believes it's her moral duty to bear witness to their suffering (her organization posts photos and videos of the frightened pigs in the trucks) and try to alleviate it. So what's the difference between someone who ought to follow the law and keep their beliefs out of it, and someone who ought to break a law they think is unjust?

I believe the question to ask is: are they trying to widen or contract the circle of compassion? Are they trying to prevent suffering, or are they increasing suffering by denying rights they themselves enjoy to those they classify as "other"? The latter is what Kim Davis did. But it is also what our society does when we deem it legal and acceptable to harm and kill beings we classify as inferior, as not worthy of the right to life or freedom from harm.

Getting in trouble with the law on account of your beliefs is not, in itself, proof that you're right (see: Kim Davis) or wrong (see: Jesus, Ghandi, etc.) But that doesn't mean there's no way to tell right from wrong. Are you trying to spread compassion and kindness to those who have been left out, or keep it from them? I say: soldier on (probably fictional) vegan county clerk! And everyone else who stands for the disenfranchised "others" whose suffering our society would dismiss or condone.

"I love swimming, I feel so graceful in the water." Photo courtesy of Esther the Wonder Pig.

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