Op-ed: Berkeley must lead the way in supporting the most oppressed group in history: animals

Violence against animals is everywhere but it’s also unnecessary and thereby unjustifiable.

I joined 20 fellow animal lovers in attending a screening of the movie “A Dog’s Purpose” at United Artists theater in Berkeley Saturday night.  This was no typical night on the town, however; we were there to disrupt the status quo and draw attention to normalized violence toward animals.

While many of us have dogs in our lives which we love as family, it’s a troubling notion indeed that animals live with a “purpose” to serve humans, rather than purposes all their own.  It would be unthinkable to suggest we exploit another human due to superficial differences such as appearance, communication or intelligence, yet our culture insists upon this very brand of rationalization in support of violence toward our nonhuman kin.

Leaked footage recently went viral which shows a terrified dog on the film’s set being forced into rushing water.  Considering the film’s premise of dogs gleefully satisfying humans’ every wish, this clip is disappointing and ironic and symptomatic of a far broader disease.

That disease is known as speciesism, and it’s discrimination by-the-book.  Group A gets certain rights while group B does not, simply because they belong to those groups.  As with other forms of discrimination, we can isolate cases of seemingly “humane” exploitation, which benefits the one exploited (e.g. arguably those dogs in our homes).  But also like other forms of discrimination, the world is inevitably better off without it.  We can simply do so, so much better.  It’s mostly a matter of priority- a reality from which we should draw encouragement.

As we stood in front of the crowd and anxiously delivered our message, I was surprised at the positivity of the crowd’s response.  But perhaps I shouldn’t be.  A lifelong Berkeley resident, I’m proud of this city’s history on the frontier of so many social issues.  I speak up for animals- and do it in Berkeley- because I know they deserve it, and because I know we can make change happen right here.

Last fall, Berkeley became home to the first community center for animal rights in the U.S., the Berkeley Animal Rights Center.  Around that same time, Berkeley’s city council passed the nation’s first resolution condemning the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China.  We intend to continue pushing Berkeley forward as the nation’s animal rights leader.

We want this place which is known for free speech and bold progressive ideas to again lead the way- this time, for the largest, most oppressed group of individuals in history.  Violence against animals is everywhere, but it’s also unnecessary and thereby unjustifiable.  We reject the notion of animals having a purpose to serve us as wholeheartedly as we embrace Berkeley’s role in pushing moral progress on the right side of history.

Video from TMZ:

Masha Aleskovski is an activist with the grassroots global animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere