Utah has been hard hit in recent
years by animal terrorists destroying fur farm property and releasing
animals, but unfortunately the legitimate concern over those acts of violence
has started expressing itself in counterproductive and unconstitutional
ways. There is currently a legal battle going on between Cooper Hills
High School and one of its students, John Ouimette, over the use of the
Ouimette is apparently a vegan
and, believe it or not, the school district that Cooper Hills is part
of bans the use of the word vegan from student clothing arguing that it
is a gang-related term because many people in the Straight Edge movement
call themselves vegans.
I donÂ’t have a lot of sympathy
for Straight Edgers, who always seem to come off as pretentious neo-Puritans,
or ethical vegans for that matter, but the logic of banning the word “vegan”
makes about as much sense as banning the Star of David as a gang symbol
as another high school recently did.
Ouimette was forced by an
assistant principal to remove a T-shirt with the saying “Vegans Have
First Amendment Rights” and is suing the school over the incident
claiming his First Amendment rights were violated.
The principals should be ashamed
of themselves. What sort of lesson does the school system think it is
teaching young Mr. Ouimette? First, it is sending the message to other
students that veganism is inherently connected with violence. This of
course is due to the most fundamental of logical fallacies, the undistributed
middle Â– some vegans commit acts of violence, Ouimette says heÂ’s a vegan,
therefore Ouimette (and other vegans) must be the sort of people who would
commit acts of violence.
More importantly, though,
if I were Ouimette the message I would take away from this whole flap
is that animal rights claims about animals are so accurate and dangerous
to the status quo that they have to censor me rather than let other students
hear my views. Certainly there is a legitimate concern about animal rights
groups giving one-sided presentations to ill-informed students, but on
the other hand the treatment of animals is certainly a legitimate debate
and one that schools should embrace rather than shrink away from.
An honest, fair look at animal
enterprises will only strengthen support for medical research and other
areas as it debunks the myths that animal rights groups feed students.
Trying to suppress these ideas will only reinforce misconceptions and
myths as well as alienating young people with serious, legitimate concerns
about the treatment of animals.