Arguments About Animal Rights

Famous Quotes, Explained

Alice Walker

Justin Sullivan/Staff/Getty Images

Supporters of the animal rights movement and their opponents often use quotes to bolster their arguments. Unfortunately, some of these quotes are taken out of context, misattributed, or otherwise incorrectly used. Famous quotes about animal rights, from Paul McCartney to the Bible, are explored and explained here.

Alice Walker

One quote taken out of context is attributed to writer Alice Walker. It's a beautiful quote clearly about animal rights:

"The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than Black people were made for Whites or women for men."

It's one of the most famous quotes bandied about in the animal rights movement. The fact that it is attributed to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, a book that inspired a movie by the same name, as well as a Broadway musical, makes it all the more credible and poignant.

The problem is the quote is taken out of context, and Walker wasn't expressing her own views. The source of the quote is Walker's preface to Marjorie Spiegel's 1988 book, The Dreaded Comparison. In fact, the very next sentence is "This is the gist of Ms. Spiegel's cogent, humane and astute argument, and it is sound." So Walker was simply summarizing someone else's views, not her own. It's easy to see how something like this spreads. It's a great sentiment, coming from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. And technically, Alice Walker did write it.

Adolf Hitler

Critics of the animal rights movement, and specifically the aspect of it that involves vegetarianism, are quick to point out that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian. Buzz such as this is a phenomenon of the internet age where misinformation spreads like wildfire if said information furthers one’s agenda. This rumor allegedly started because in his article in Psychology Today writer Hal Hertzog reported that Hitler was overheard telling a female companion who ordered sausage while they were on a date:

“I didn’t think you wanted to devour a dead corpse…the flesh of dead animals. Cadavers!”

Subsequent inquiry and research have proven that Hitler was not a vegetarian, a fact clearly indicated in a 1964 Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook written by Dione Lucas, who spoke openly about Herr Hitler’s favorite meat dishes. So much for anti-animal rights people trying to demonstrate a link between vegetarians and the world’s most evil bastard.

Other Quotes About Animal Rights

Paul McCartney was a vegan who famously and openly discussed his vegan lifestyle. He actually did say: “You can judge a man's true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.

Paul and his late wife Linda McCartney were both proponents of animal rights. Linda wrote in her book Linda's Kitchen: Simple and Inspiring Recipes for Meals Without Meat wrote:

If slaughterhouses had glass walls, the whole world would be vegetarian.” 

Writer Ralph Waldo Emerson also spoke of slaughterhouses, saying:

“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” 

Other quotes about animals and vegetarianism have been borrowed from other social movements. The context of these quotes is not directly related to animal rights, but the message is applied to the argument in favor of animal rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?”

There are other quotes related to social movements that are attributed to Dr. King and used for animal rights. This includes: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Animal rights critics are also famous for citing biblical references to support their claim that people are supposed to use animals any way they desire, including eating them. This often used argument stems from Genesis 1:26-28: 

"Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and ...let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air." 

Some theologians have suggested that the word “dominion” was translated incorrectly and should actually be “stewardship.” Though Susan B. Anthony likely was not responding to the use of the Bible to oppose animal rights, she did say:

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” 

While there is no evidence to support the idea that King or Anthony were vegetarians, their words are universal. Is there any harm in commissioning their moving words to inspire a kinder world?