Tina DeWitt was 9 years old when she killed her first insect. It was just an ant, she thought; no big deal.
After that fateful day, she embarked into new territory, killing spiders, gnats, and even fireflies.
“I can remember sitting in the corner later and crying,” DeWitt recounts. “I could see that poor, defenseless ant, and I felt rotten to the core.”
She has since found her way out of the brutal world of animal injustice. Older and wiser, she founded and leads the Red Army for Animal Emancipation, the new face of animal rights in the United States.
RAAE, a progressive animal rights group, advocates a more sweeping agenda than typical animal rights organizations.
“We expand the traditional definition of animal justice to include many more of the world’s creatures,” said DeWitt. Her organization is busy launching numerous state-level campaigns to extend legal protection for insects, rodents, bacteria, and various diseases.
Under the model legislation pushed by RAAE, no one would be allowed to kill mosquitoes, flies, roaches, or any other so-called “household pests.” Changes in the law would also prohibit inflicting emotional or psychological harm on such creatures, making it illegal to chase, scare, yell at, or swat at any of them. Grocery stores and other businesses would no longer be allowed to sell fly swatters, bug sprays, mouse traps or other devices designed to kill insects.
Bacteria and parasites would also be protected, meaning a ban on soap, shampoo, and other cleansing agents. Anti-bacterial soap is most egregious, DeWitt says.
“Look at the name of this soap: anti-bacterial. Just the name is a clear indication of soap’s anti-freedom agenda for bacteria.”
The exception to these proposed sweeping protections, DeWitt notes, is the human fetus. “Giving rights to fetuses would inconvenience or annoy mothers who don’t want a child, and clearly we cannot impose such burdens on anyone,” she said.
The RAAE campaign comes amidst a controversial case which has divided animal rights leaders. Earlier this year, a homeowner reported that a dog attacked and killed a mole in his backyard.
The incident puts animal rights advocates in a difficult position: whose animal rights matter, those of the dog or the mole?
“Regardless, an animal’s rights are going to be violated, and that has caused a great deal of contention among those who champion animal liberty,” said Elisabeth Jordan of Americans for Animal Welfare.