The Pen

Karen Swallow Prior and an Animal Rights Trojan Horse in the ERLC

See the guy engaged in “heavy petting,” tender caressing and kissing the cow he “saved” from slaughter? This video was recently posted by the Humane Society of the United States as a part of their “Farm Animal Protection Campaign,” the same Humane Society which employs a “faith advisory council” upon which ERLC Research Fellow Karen Swallow Prior serves. (You can see the video referenced above here.)

As the zoophilic photo above demonstrates, the Humane Society isn’t your friendly neighborhood pet shelter. They are, as Humane Watch so carefully documents, promoting a campaign ever as radical as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Desiring to rescue farm animals from butcher, end industrialized farming, promote vegetarianism, boycott the wearing of animal products and end scientific animal testing, the Humane Society is almost indistinguishable in their goals from PETA and other radical organizations that put “animal suffering” on the same moral level as human suffering. And it is this Humane Society that the ERLC has partnered with in their Every Living Thing Campaign to promote animal welfare as a Gospel ambition.

Heading up the SBC’s socially-progressive dive into animal welfare is, of course, Karen Swallow Prior. Prior, we have reported before, serves on the Humane Society Faith Advisory Council with Muslim clerics, Jewish rabbis and others, the goal of which is to “provide strategic guidance” for the organization (source link). Prior, according to an interview, helped to write the animal welfare manifesto for Every Living Thing in conjunction with the Humane Society (source link). The Every Living Thing website promotes a video from the Humane Society, which has widely been taken as an all-out assault on the farming and ranching industry (source link). Prior has also personally advocated for a substantial elimination of meat from our diet in the name of animal welfare (source link). This same website, partnered with by the Southern Baptist Convention’s ERLC and headed up by Karen Swallow Prior, includes an article calling animals “our brothers,”  and one article suggesting that elephants have souls. This is not out of character for Prior, who also believes that naming our pets grants them personhood, by which they may go to Heaven with us (source link). And, as we’ve previously reported, the pro-farming and ranching Animal Agriculture Alliance warned of the Humane Society’s attempt to infiltrate evangelical churches with their animal-centric agenda and even gave the name of Karen Swallow Prior as an example of the type of delegate they were looking for (source link).

Perhaps most troubling and as I’ve previously covered on my podcast, while discussing the need to bring an end to “animal cruelty” (aka industrialized farming) in which she also decried the “domination of animals,” when asked if the human suffering (possible starving) that would be brought by ending animal suffering (industrialized farming), Karen Swallow Prior refused to answer the question directly (audio source link).

In continuing to apprise you of the socially progressive right-hand woman of Russell Moore and growing Evangelical Intelligentsia star we first wrote about here, we bring your attention to an incredible (in a bad way) article by Karen Swallow Prior at Christianity Today. The article is entitled, “Saving Chimps, Serving God.

The article begins by Prior recalling the story of an evangelical Christian “freeing” chimpanzees that were being used for scientific testing. Saying that most medical research doesn’t require chimps (emphasis on most), Prior even links a heart-warming video of a chimpanzee released after having served as a test animal (**wipes tear**). Prior writes…

Christian thinking tends to be foggy on matters of animal protection, especially when we believe that their suffering will somehow benefit humans, forgetting that animals weren’t created to save us. Leadership from someone like Collins in matters of humane stewardship of animals is welcome news indeed.

Collins, who advocated for the release of chimps after meeting with animal rights activist, Jane Goodall, partnered with the Humane Society and others in opposing government officials who believe the research is necessary. In this statement from Prior, so it would seem, animal suffering in order to benefit humans is wrong. Or, so a reasonable reading would seem. And although animals weren’t placed here to “save us” (whatever that means), they were, of course, put here to feed us, clothe us, and be beast of burdens to do our work (and not only is this fleshed out in Scripture, but is implicit within the Dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28).

Prior writes…

We don’t need to debate the role animal experimentation has played in the past to acknowledge that now the practice is outmoded and largely unnecessary, the vestige of an archaic and unbiblical brand of empiricism. We need not continue the suffering simply because it is how things were done for so long.

Furthermore, most Christians—who help comprise the American population that spends $61 billion annually on pets—love their own pets and see them, as I certainly do, as members of our families. We could never imagine one of our beloved pets undergoing the treatment given to countless animals in laboratories and industrial farms every day.

Of course, animal testing is still necessary. The opinion of English professors aside, over 90 percent of scientists in the field of bio-medics say that animal testing is essential. Organizations like the American Heart Association and the Society of Toxicology strongly advocate for the use of animal testing in order to save human lives. In fact, the opinion of the medical community is nearly overwhelming and almost unanimous (again, the expert opinion of English professors aside). In fact, check this source link for ten reasons why animal testing is still necessary.

Notice, as well, that Prior refers to animal testing as an “unbiblical brand of empiricism.” That’s code-language that will come in important in just a moment – an anti-capitalistic code-language of the animal liberation movement (ALM).

Next, regardless of whether or not Prior views her pets as family members (pffft), she throws “industrial farms” into this repudiation along with animal testing, presumedly because raising animals on a mass scale for slaughter is somehow, apparently, unbiblical or at the very least, unethical.

Obviously, Prior’s views do not fall into step with most Southern Baptists…or conservatives…or capitalists…or scientists…or anybody else that really cares about human welfare. But this is the question; is Prior just the stereotypical cat-lady who loves her pets and thinks of them as children, who might go a tad overboard on this subject? Was she the type of child that insisted on a funeral for her goldfish, and never quite grew out of it? Or did Prior’s raising among the East Coast version of Portlandia hippy hobby farms taint her understanding of the science of animal husbandry? Why does a supposed “conservative” evangelical work with and sound like radical animal rights activists, and twist Scripture to do it?

Before I answer that, let me add that Prior’s diatribe against medical research in Christianity Today was not some kind of fluke or off-handed article. Prior gave high praise to Wal-Mart, writing for the Washington Post, for recognizing the “Five Freedoms” of animals (source link) including freedom from pain, discomfort and distress. Prior recalls her upbringing “in Maine among subsistence-level and hobby farmers,” and supports her views by Scriptures dealing with not muzzling the ox (Paul explained the general equity of that verse 1 Timothy 5:18 and it wasn’t about animal welfare) and eschews “large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations.”

Prior wrote an article lauding the Endangered Species Act based upon a reading, it seems, of Genesis 2:19. An Act, by the way, which is grossly abused by animal rights activists (Collins, who she applauds above for releasing the chimps, tried to get Congress to call chimpanzees ‘endangered’ – even though they clearly are not – to force their release). The Endangered Species Act is widely regarded as one of the greatest assaults on liberty in American history, responsible for the removal thousands from their homes and hundreds of thousands from their employment, and caused millions upon millions (if not billions) of dollars in loss to American industry, as happened with the infamous spotted owl controversy.

Prior seems to be particularly popular in Catholic circles, regularly pointed to by socially progressive moralists, like this website entitled, Catholic Moral Theology. But nothing quite seems to explain who Karen Swallow Prior is like her own words, like those she wrote to the Buffalo News at the beginning of her career…

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We’d post the whole pdf (we had to pay $25 dollars for it 29.95 for subscription service), but you know…that whole copyright thing.

Continue to listen to what she says…

Though raising, hunting, preparing and eating meat was an unquestioned part of my life, I nevertheless cultivated a lifelong knowledge and love of animals that continues to be a chief source of joy today. So it didn’t take a gruesomely eye-opening description (such as that given in a recent Buffalo News column) of how Bessie becomes a burger to curb forever my appetite for meat. All it took was one word, used by a Hindu acquaintance during a lunchtime (vegetarian, of course) conversation. When he referred to meat as “flesh,” that so very . . . human . . . word made an indelible impression on my view of that particular food source. My ingestion of meat has been on a steady decline every since…

One wonders had more of an effect upon her animal rights activism – if it was the Scripture or a Hindu friend.

What’s the source of this animal liberation theology? Vasu Murti explains a startling comparison between feminism (remember, Karen Swallow Prior started an organization for feminists) and animal rights or vegetarianism, and even lumps in Prior with radical animal rights activist (and eugenicist), Peter Singer.

Together, they would meet with anti-slavery editor Horace Greeley to toast “Women’s Rights and Vegetarianism.” Many of the early American feminists thus saw animal rights as the logical next step in social progress after women’s rights and civil rights…

Count Leo Tolstoy similarly described ethical vegetarianism as social progress: “And there are ideas of the future, of which some are already approaching realization and are obliging people to change their way of life and to struggle against the former ways: such ideas in our world as those of freeing the laborers, of giving equality to women, of ceasing to use flesh food, and so on.”

The case for animal rights and vegetarianism should be readily understandable to the millions of Americans opposed to abortion on demand. “Although I may disagree with some of its underlying principles,” writes prolife activist Karen Swallow Prior, “there is much for me, an anti-abortion activist, to respect in the animal rights movement. Animal rights activists, like me, have risked personal safety and reputation for the sake of other living beings. Animal rights activists, like me, are viewed by many in the mainstream as fanatical wackos, ironically exhorted by irritated passersby to ‘Get a Life!’

Both the anti-abortion and animal rights movements consider their cause a form of social progress, like the abolition of human slavery or the emancipation |of women. Leaders in both movements have even compared themselves to the abolitionists who sought to end human slavery. In his 1975 book Animal |Liberation, Australian philosopher Peter Singer writes that the “tyranny of human over nonhuman animals” is “causing an amount of pain and suffering that can only be compared with that which resulted from the centuries of tyranny by white humans over black humans. (source link)

Murti is quite right. There’s more than a simple correlation between Prior’s feminism and her animal rights activism.

The roots of animal liberation were written about in the Journal for Inclusive Democracy by Stephen Best. Tell me if it sounds familiar…

…utilitarian philosophers like Peter Singer, proponents of animal rights argue that the intrinsic value and basic rights of animals cannot be trumped by any appeal to an alleged greater (human) good. Animals’ interests cannot be sacrificed no matter what good consequence may result (such as an alleged advance in medical knowledge). Just as most people believe that it is immoral to sacrifice a human individual to a “greater good” if it improves the overall social welfare, so animal rights proponents persuasively apply the same reasoning to animals. If animals have rights, it is no more valid to use them in medical experimentation than it is to use human beings; for the scientific cause can just as well ―in truth, far better― be advanced through human experimentation, but ethics and human rights forbids it.

If that’s not Karen Swallow Prior writing, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle…assuming that monkey isn’t endangered and is well cared for. He continues…

The position of animal rights is an abolitionist position that demands the end to all instances and institutions of animal exploitation, not merely reducing suffering; like its 19th century predecessor, it demands the eradication of slavery, not better treatment of the slaves….

Enter Prior’s muse, 19th century abolitionist and animal welfare activist, Hannah More. Again, sound familiar?

Unlike the single-issue focus of the welfare and rights camps, the ALM supports all human struggles for liberation and sees the oppression of humans, animals, and earth as stemming from the same core causes and dynamics.

Animals in experimental laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, leather factories, zoos, circuses, rodeos, and other exploitative institutions are the major slave and proletariat force of contemporary capitalist society. Each year, throughout the globe, they are confined, exploited, and killed “murdered” is not an inappropriate term by the billions. The raw materials of the human economy (a far greater and more general domination system than capitalism), animals are exploited for their fur, flesh, and bodily fluids. Stolen from the wild, bred and raised in captivity, held in cages and chains against their will and without their consent, animals literally are slaves, and thereby integral elements of the contemporary capitalistslave economy (which in its starkest form also includes human sweatshops and sex trades).

Folks, albeit put in less explicit (and more honest) language than the nuanced discourse of Karen Swallow Prior, this is precisely her philosophy and worldview.

Wake up, Southern Baptists. There is a socially progressive Trojan Horse at the gates…

[Contributed by JD Hall]