Every American is familiar with the underground railroad and its heroine, Harriet Tubman, the leader of a path North to freedom for slaves who because of their yearning for liberty and emancipation risked their very lives so that they could be the masters of their own fates. What is often lost is why such a path was necessary for a country as endless and free as the United States, and why many sought their way to Canada rather than just escaping the reaches of their former oppressors.

The reason is state power.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 decreed:

That it shall be the duty of all marshals and deputy marshals to obey and execute all warrants and precepts issued under the provisions of this act, when to them directed… That when a person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the United States, has heretofore or shall hereafter escape into another State or Territory of the United States… may pursue and reclaim such fugitive person

Thus, the federal government mandated that all of their officials, whether in free or slave states, had to assist in the detention and recapture of anyone accused by a slaveowner to be “held to service.”

This is one of the most abhorrent uses of federal power in American history.

This week, another piece of news came out that because of the callous negligence of some Edwin Neal character in an abattoir California this week, forty cattle sought their freedom, too, from a short life and slaughter. They searched for refuge, and ran for their lives through the suburban neighborhood, filled with BBQs and minivans.

Because US law does not recognize any right to life for animals and recognizes all animals as property, while seeing the steers as a risk to these suburbanites, they sent the full force of the local police forces, subsidized by local taxpayer money, to help the ranch collect its property. They in turn were so inept, they opened fire in the streets that day of this suburban neighborhood as they lost control, causing one bull to charge a family, ultimately killing it, before returning the remaining cattle to the ranch for prompt slaughter.

People may be shocked that I dare to parallel the underground railroad to the plight of mere cattle, and say that they are subhuman and thus don’t merit protection, and as subhuman species, they have no rights. They can not feel, they are less intelligent, and most of all, they are just the deprived property of the ranchers: they were bred for this “life.”

Yet these same arguments were used to justify American slavery for hundreds of years.

This article does not aim to compare humans to animals, or say that human chattel slavery, or human genocide, or forced human labor can be compared to those acts committed against animals.

What it asks is that at a very basic level, we consider these parallels, and on what level, besides cultural momentum and sheer crass gluttony, do we deny animals any legal right to their very lives.

At the very least, the right to life that less resembles a short stint from birth to throat slitting in a labor-extermination camp, a short, brutal existence, and a cruel mechanical death, to satisfy the cravings of a fried-chicken on uber-eats society that is too far removed from this process to be capable of fathoming its consequences.

What this article argues, at the very least is a law is made that if a slaughterhouse is so incompetent that it can not keep its animals inside, and can therefore not ensure the safety of the surrounding community, and that the animals inside are so desperate and love liberty enough that they were able to outsmart the craven masters, and in turn the slaughterhouse is forced to beg the government to subsidize their incompetence through assisting in the recapture of those animals, that for the good of society, the slaughterhouse must forfeit all property rights to all of of its held animals in perpetuity.

Staff writer: Ari B