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Top 12 Animal Rights Myths and Facts

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A number of myths stand in the way of the public’s understanding of animal rights. Below are a dozen of the most popular animal rights myths, along with some facts about animal rights.

1. Myth: Animal rights activists care more about animals than people.

Protestors Demonstrate Outside The Japanese Embassy As Dolphin Hunting Begins
Oli Scarff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Fact: Animal rights activists have expanded their circle of compassion so that it includes non-human animals as well as people, but caring about non-human animals does not mean that someone doesn't care or cares less about people. If you talk with animal rights activists, you will find that many are also involved with humanitarian causes such as hunger, poverty, sweatshops, feminism, marriage equality, or civil rights.

2. Myth: Animal rights activists protest fur while wearing leather shoes.

Fact: Although some fur protestors may wear leather shoes, animal rights activists oppose the use of leather and do not wear leather. With today's synthetic materials, it can be difficult to tell if someone is wearing leather shoes just from a casual glance and it would be wrong to accuse someone of wearing leather shoes without checking.

3. Myth: Animal rights activists care only about “cute” animals.

Fact: There are some animal protection groups that tend to promote the protection of "cute" animals like panda bears, baby seals or puppies, but the animal rights philosophy applies to all animals. In fact, activists are often ridiculed for championing fish, flies, chickens or other "non-cute" animals. ("Cute" and "non-cute" are in quotes because cuteness is highly subjective.)

4. Myth: Animal rights activists protest hunting but buy meat in a supermarket.

Fact: Some people who eat meat may protest hunting, but animal rights activists oppose both hunting and buying meat from a supermarket. Animal rights activists advocate veganism, and do not consume any meat, eggs, dairy or other animal products.

5. Myth: PETA (or HSUS) represents the entire animal rights movement.

Fact: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and The Humane Society of the United States dominate mainstream media coverage of animal rights issues in the U.S., but do not represent the entire animal rights movement. The animal rights movement is not monolithic, and it would be inaccurate to believe that one or two organizations represent the full diversity of animal rights activists, strategies, philosophies and organizations that are out there.

6. Myth: Animal rights activists are terrorists.

Fact: A very small minority of animal rights activists engage in violent tactics, but they do not represent all activists or even the majority. Just as it would be wrong to judge all pro-life advocates by the ones who kill abortion doctors, it would be wrong to say that all animal rights activists are terrorists.

7. Myth: Animal rights activists protest whaling, but not the killing of cows.

Fact: While some people oppose the killing of whales because various whale species are threatened or endangered, or out of a belief that whales are special, animal rights activists oppose whaling because they believe it is wrong to kill sentient beings for food. Animal rights activists advocate veganism, but in general, protests against the killing of cows, pigs or chickens do not garner as much media coverage as protests against whaling, which might explain how this myth arose.

8. Myth: Animal rights activists are privileged, white, educated, urban women.

Fact: Animal rights activists are diverse when it comes to class, ethnicity, race, education, gender and geography. Although the animal rights movement may not appear diverse based on attendance at conferences or protests, it would be wrong to judge the entire movement based on a small number of events. Much animal activism goes on in homes, churches, temples, and within communities and countries that are underrepresented in mainstream American media.

9. Myth: Hitler was a vegetarian.

Fact: While various writers have labeled Hitler a vegetarian, some of those very same writers also point out that he ate ham, sausage, liver, and caviar. A German chef and cookbook author wrote that stuffed squab was a great favorite of Hitler's whenever he came into the hotel where she worked. Regardless, whether any particular individual is vegan or vegetarian has no bearing on whether animals deserve rights.

10. Myth: Animal rights activists want to take my pets away from me.

Fact: While some activists oppose the keeping of pets and think that no more should be bred, no one wants to take your animals away from you. The best place for your pet is in your home, with you.

11. Myth: Animal rights activists want to impose their views on everyone else.

Fact: Animal rights activists are not trying to impose their views on anyone. The animal rights movement uses public outreach, education and persuasion, not force. Even campaigns to change laws are based on organizing enough voters to make it politically advantageous for legislators to support animal protection.

12. Myth: Veganism is not healthy.

Fact: The American Dietetic Association supports vegan diets: "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
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