Catholic News Service photo Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, second from left, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. participate in a June 21, 1964, rally at Chicago's Soldier Field.
To the Catholic Sentinel:
From my office, it is a short walk to the spot where, 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. Crowds streamed along this very street on their way to the March on Washington. Who then would have believed that a few decades later, Americans would elect their first black president?
We broke through one significant barrier, but we cannot stop there. We must shed today’s prejudices as surely as we rejoice in having shed yesterday’s.
We know that all living beings experience maternal love as we do; that if you burn a child or a cat, they feel pain; and that all of us with a heart beating inside us desire freedom. Yet young elephants are still removed from their families, confined by chains to stinking, squalid boxcars, and beaten into performing ridiculous tricks for human amusement. Monkeys, dogs, and rats are still burned, shocked, infected, poisoned, blinded, and surgically mutilated in laboratories despite breakthroughs in science that provide reliable and far more relevant non-animal testing methods. Animals on factory farms are treated more like widgets than the feeling beings they are: Chickens and pigs are crammed into cages so small that they cannot take a single step in any direction, calves are torn from the mothers who love them, pigs are prodded and kicked and deprived of everything that makes their lives worth living.
Fifty years after Dr. King’s stirring, unforgettable speech, I have a dream that we will embrace animal rights as being as deserving of our energy as the other hard-fought and slowly accepted struggles for social justice. As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Let’s honor his memory by pledging to oppose all oppression, prejudice, violence, and cruelty, no matter how novel the idea or how inconvenient the task.