The Big Fat Wicked Lie People Tell About Animals

Posted in animal liberation, animal rights with tags , , , , on January 9, 2011 by carmen4thepets

Excerpt from Animal Rights Human Wrongs ~by Vernon Coleman

 

Vivisectors, hunters, butchers and farmers excuse the cruel way they treat animals by claiming (falsely) that animals don’t have feelings.

This is a lie. A big fat wicked lie, which excuses a thousand cruelties.

 

The truth, as anyone who is capable of reading and observing will know, is that animals are sentient and exhibit many of those qualities which racists like to think of as being the preserve of the human race. (I think it is perfectly fair to describe those who claim that all good’ qualities are the exclusive property of the human species as racist’). One of the absurdities of the argument about hunting which has raged for recent years in Britain has been the sight of apparently intelligent people arguing about whether or not animals, which are hunted, suffer physical pain and/or mental anguish when they are being pursued. How can there possibly be any doubt about this? Those who do express doubt about this are telling us a great deal about their own innate lack of understanding and compassion and their inability to learn from simple observation. If observation is not enough there is more than enough scientific evidence to show that birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and crustaceans all have nervous systems and all suffer pain. Darwin showed that fear produces similar responses in both humans and animals. The eyes and mouth open, the heart beats rapidly, teeth chatter, muscles tremble, hairs stand on end and so on. Parrots, like human beings, turn away and cover their eyes when confronted with a sight, which overwhelms them. Young elephants who have seen their families killed by poachers wake up screaming in the night. Elephants who are suddenly separated from their social group may die suddenly of broken heart syndrome’. Apes may fall down and faint when suddenly coming across a snake. If a man shouts at a dog he will cower and back away in fear.

 

Animals Can Communicate

 

Animal abusers sometimes assume that it is only humans who can communicate with one another. And yet bees can communicate the direction, distance and value of pollen sources quite a distance away. Animal abusers generally dismiss animal noises as simply that (noises) but scientists who have taken the time and trouble to listen carefully to the extraordinary variety of noises made by whales have found that there are patterns of what can only be described as speech which are repeated from one year to another. It is generally assumed that parrots merely repeat words they have heard without understanding what they mean. This is not true. Masson and McCarthy report how when psychologist Irene Pepperberg left her parrot at the vet’s surgery for an operation the parrot, whose name was Alex, called out: Come here. I love you. I’m sorry. I want to go back.’ The parrot clearly thought that he was being punished for some crime he had committed. Another parrot, in New Jersey, US saved the life of its owner by calling for help. Murder! Help! Come quick!’ cried the parrot. When neighbors ran to the scene of the crime they found the parrot’s owner lying on the floor, unconscious, bleeding from a gash in his neck. The doctor who treated the man said that without the parrot’s cries he would have died. The same parrot woke his owner and neighbors when a fire started in the house next door. How arrogant the animal abusers are to assume that human beings are the only species capable of communicating with one another, and of formulating a formal system of language. Vivisectors frequently laugh at the animals they torture and abuse. The concentration camp guards in the Second World War laughed at their victims and called them lice and rats. The vivisectors talk about sending a mouse to college’ when they want to raise funds for experiments. We have the power to do what we will with creatures of other species. But no one has given us the right. Animals feel complex emotions. But the animal abusers claim that because animals do not satisfy our human criteria for intelligence then animals do not deserve any sympathy or understanding. It is but one step from this to arguing that unintelligent humans can be used for experiments. Human beings who have taken the time to do so have found that they have been able to communicate well with chimpanzees and numerous other animals. Primates will often strive to make the peace after a hostile encounter. And uninvolved primates may help begin and cement the reconciliation. And yet vivisectors are given legal licenses allowing them to do horrific things to these animals. Who gave human beings the right to hand out licenses to torture?

 

 

Capable Of Love

 

Animals, like people, are capable of loving their partner, their families, their children, their leaders, their teachers, their friends and others who are important to them. An ape will show exactly the same signs of love and affection when dealing with her baby as a human mother will when dealing with her baby. Both will look longingly, tickle and play with their baby. Both feed their young, wash them, risk their lives for them and put up with their noise and unruly behavior. Anyone who doubts that animals love their young should stand outside a farm yard when a calf has been taken away from a cow and listen to the heart breaking cries of anguish which result. Who knows what inner anguish accompanies those cries from a creature who does not normally vocalize in the same way that other animals do. Even fish will risk their lives to protect their young. In his seminal work The Universal Kinship’ (first published in 1906 and now largely forgotten) J. Howard Moore described how he put his hand into a pond near the nest of a perch. The courageous fish guarding the nest chased Moore’s hand away several times and when Moore’s hand was not removed quickly enough would nip it vigorously several times. Lewis Gompertz, who lived from 1779 to 1861 and was a potent champion of the rights of blacks, women and the poor (and, indeed, all oppressed human beings) was also a powerful champion of animals and was a founder of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (His credibility is, I feel, dramatically enhanced by the knowledge that quite early on he was forced out of the society). In his book Moral Inquiries On the Situation Of Man And Of Brutes’ Gompertz wrote: From some birds we may learn real constancy in conjugal affection, though in most instances their contracts only last for one season, but how strict do they keep this. They have no laws, no parchments, no parsons, no fear to injuring their characters, not even their own words to break in being untrue to each other: but their virtue is their laws, their parchments, their parsons, and the reputation; their deeds are their acts, their acts – their deeds: and from their own breasts do they honestly tear down to line the beds of their legitimate offspring.’Gompertz described an incident illustrating the wisdom of blackbirds. I observed a male blackbird flying about in an extreme state of agitation,’ he wrote. And on my going to discover the cause of it, the bird retreated from me as I followed it, till it stopped at a nest containing a female bird sitting upon her eggs, near which there was a cat: in consequence of this I removed the cat, and the bird became quiet. After that, whenever the cat was about the place, the blackbird would come near my window, and would in the same manner direct me to some sport where the cat happened to be stationed.’Gompertz also wrote about a male blackbird which had attacked a cat which had caught its female partner and wrote about three true incidents which illustrated animal kindness and wisdom. The first concerned two goats, which had met one another on a narrow path between two precipices. There was no room for the two goats to turn or pass and so one of the goats lay down, allowing the other to walk over it. The second incident involved a horse who had been hurt by a nail when he had been shod. Finding it painful to walk he had gone back to the farrier and shown him his hoof. The third incident involved a sheep dog who jumped into freezing cold water and successfully rescued another dog, which had been floating on a lump of ice. I would now fain ask,’ wrote Gompertz, if all this does not show reason and virtue? ‘J. Howard Moore described how monkeys may adopt the orphans of deceased members of their tribe and how two crows fed a third crow which was wounded. The wound was several weeks old and the two crows had clearly been playing good Samaritans’ for that time. Darwin wrote about a blind pelican, which was fed with fish, which were brought to it by pelican friends who normally lived thirty miles away. Strong males in a herd of vicunas will lag behind to protect the weaker and slower members of their herd from possible predators.

 

 

Powerful Memories

 

Many creatures have memories, which humans might envy. Ants retrace their steps after long journeys and can recognize friends after months of separation. When a limpet has finished roaming it will return to the exact spot on the same rock where it had been settled previously. Birds fly back year after year to the same nesting spots – to within the inch. Fish, too, return to the same stretch of water to hatch their young. Horses used in delivery routes frequently know exactly where and when to stop – and for how long. Squirrels who have buried nuts months before can find them without hesitating. J. Howard Moore reported that an elephant obeyed all his old words of command on being recaptured after fifteen years of freedom in the jungle and a lion recognized its keeper after seven years of separation. A snake, which was carried a hundred miles away from home, managed to find its way back. There is plenty of evidence, too, to show that many creatures other than human beings have powerful imaginations. Spiders will hold down the edges of their webs with stones to steady them during gales, which have not yet started. Does this show an ability to predict the weather or imagination? Cats, dogs, horses, and many other creatures dream. Parrots talk in their sleep. Horses frequently stampede because they are frightened by objects (such as large rocks or posts), which are no threat to them. This must show a sense of imagination because the horse, like a child, has created a terror out of nothing. A cat playing with a ball of wool is imagining that it is playing with its prey. We always tend to think the worst of animals (and other creatures). We assume that they are stupid and our interpretation of their behavior is based upon that ill-founded prejudice. It is, for example, generally assumed that the ostrich sticks its head in the sand in the assumption that when it cannot see the rest of the world, the rest of the world cannot see it. But where is the evidence for this theory? Could it not be equally possible that the ostrich sticks its head in the sand because it cannot bear what there is to view in the world around it? When a human being covers his or her eyes to avoid looking at a horrific accident we do not say that they believe that they can’t be seen.

 

Love

 

Before slavery was abolished black people who fell in love were regarded as enjoying simple animal lust’ as a result of animal attraction’. Who on earth (or, indeed, in heaven) gave us the right to make such judgements about black people or animals? When black people formed life long pairs this was dismissed as nothing more than a response to an instinct’. The same thing is said about animals (with just as little evidence to support it). Who gives humans the right to argue that animals do not show emotions? Animal abusers sneer and say that animals, which seem to show love, are merely acting according instinct. But who says? Where is the evidence for this claim? Why do animal abusers have the right to make statements with no evidence whatsoever in support? Why don’t the animal abusers follow a consistent line and argue that human mothers who show love for their human babies are merely following their instincts? (Of course, people change their views when it suits them. Even vivisectors and hunters, who claim that animals have no feelings, will often claim to be loved by their companion dogs and cats.)There are numerous well-authenticated stories of animals risking their lives to save their loved ones. And animals will put their own safety second to protect their friends. One herd of elephants was seen always to travel unusually slowly. Observers noted that the herd traveled slowly so as not to leave behind an elephant who had not fully recovered from a broken leg. Another herd traveled slowly to accommodate a mother who was carrying her dead calf with her. When the herd stopped to eat or drink the mother would put her dead calf down. When they started traveling she would pick up the dead calf. The rest of the herd were accommodating her in her time of grief. Gorillas too have been seen to travel slowly if one of their number is injured and unable to move quickly. Remember this unquestioning generosity next time you are trapped in the midst of a crowd of humans traveling by car, train or airplane.

 

Altruistic Behavior

 

Animals don’t just show love; they frequently exhibit behavior that can only be described as altruistic. Old lionesses that have lost their teeth and can no longer bear young are, theoretically, of no value to the rest of the pride. But the younger lions will share their kills with them. Young, agile chimpanzees will climb trees to fetch fruit for their older relatives. Foxes have been observed bringing food to adult, injured foxes. When one fox was injured by a mowing machine and taken to a vet by a human observer the fox’s sister took food to the spot where the injured fox had lain. The good Samaritan sister fox made the whimpering sound that foxes use when summoning cubs to eat (even though she had no cubs).Animals have been known to give food to hungry humans. Koko, the gorilla who learned to communicate with humans through sign language, gave medical advice to a human woman who complained of indigestion. Koko told the woman to drink orange juice. When the human revisited ten days later and offered Koko a drink of orange juice Koko would not accept the drink until assured that the woman felt better. Whales have been observed to ask for and receive help from other whales. J. Howard Moore describes how crabs struggled for some time to turn over another crustacean, which had fallen onto its back. When the crabs couldn’t manage by themselves they went and fetched two other crabs to help them. A gander who acted as a guardian to his blind partner would take her neck gently in his mouth and lead her to the water when she wanted to swim. Afterwards he would lead her home in the same manner. When goslings were hatched the gander, realizing that the mother would not be able to cope, looked after them himself. Pigs will rush to defend one of their numbers who is being attacked. When wild geese are feeding one will act as sentinel – never taking a grain of corn while on duty. When the sentinel goose has been on watch for a while it pecks at a nearby goose and hands over the responsibility for guarding the group. When swans dive there is usually one, which stays above the water to watch out for danger. Time and time again dogs have pined and died on being separated from their masters or mistresses. Animals can suffer, they can communicate and they can care. A Border collie woke a young mother from a deep sleep and led her to her baby’s cot. The baby was choking on mucus and had stopped breathing. What is any of this but compassion? How can animal abusers regard themselves as sentient when they mistreat animals who can feel this way? Konrad Lorenz described the behavior of a gander called Ado when a fox killed his mate Susanne-Elisabeth. Ado stood by Susanne-Elisabeth’s body in mourning. He hung his head and his body was hunched. He didn’t bother to defend himself when attacked by strange geese. How would the animal abusers describe such behavior other than as sorrow born of love? There is no survival value in mourning. It can only be a manifestation of a clear emotional response – love. A badger was seen to drag another badger, which had been killed by a car off the road, along a hedge, through a gap and into a burial spot in nearby woods. Coyotes form pairs before they become sexually active – and then stay together. One observer watched a female coyote licking her partner’s face after they had made love. They then curled up and went to sleep. Geese, swans and mandarin ducks have all been described as enjoying long-term relationships.

 

Vanity And Self Consciousness

 

Animals have also been known to show vanity, self-consciousness, embarrassment and other allegedly exclusively human emotions. Masson and McCarthy reported that chimpanzees have been observed using a TV video monitor to watch themselves make faces – the chimpanzees were able to distinguish between a live image and taped image by testing to see if their actions were duplicated on the screen. Chimpanzees have even managed to use a video monitor to apply make-up to themselves (this is a difficult trick to learn for humans). One chimpanzee has been reported to use a video camera and monitor to look down his throat – using a flashlight to help the process. As for vanity, males (baboons) with worn or broken teeth yawn less than male baboons with teeth in good condition – unless there are no other males around in which case they yawn just as often,’ wrote Masson and McCarthy. One gorilla who had a number of toy dolls used sign language to send kisses to her favorite puppets and dolls. But every time she realized that she was being watched she stopped playing. When a bottlenose porpoise accidentally bit her trainer’s hand she became hideously embarrassed’, went to the bottom of her tank, with her snout in a corner, and wouldn’t come out until the trainer made it clear that she wasn’t cross. Jane Goodall has reported that wild chimpanzees can show embarrassment and shame and may, also, show off to other animals whom they want to impress. (One chimpanzee who fell while showing off was clearly embarrassed). Many people who live with cats will have noticed that if the cat falls off a piece of furniture it will appear embarrassed – often beginning to wash itself as though making it clear that the embarrassing incident didn’t really happen at all. Elephant keepers report that when elephants are laughed at they will respond by filling their trunks with water and spraying the mockers. And many dog owners have reported that their animals have made it clear that they know that they have done wrong. For example a dog which feels it has done something wrong may go into a submissive position before the owner knows that the animal has done something bad’.

 

Artistic Animals

 

There are many myths about animals and the animal abusers tell many lies in an attempt to belittle the skills that animals have. It is, for example, sometimes said by animal abusers that animals cannot see in color. This is a nonsense. Four sheep who lived with me, who were accustomed to being fed from an orange bucket would come running across a field if they saw the orange bucket. When I tried using a blue bucket they showed absolutely no interest. The color was the only significant difference between the buckets. A chimpanzee has been observed staring at a beautiful sunset for fifteen minutes. Monkeys prefer looking at pictures of monkeys to pictures of people and prefer looking at animated cartoons rather than at still pictures. Gerald Durrell wrote about a pigeon who listened quietly to most music but who would stamp backwards and forwards when marches were being played and would twist and bow, cooing softly, when waltzes were played. Dogs will alter their howling according to the other sounds they hear. One gorilla enjoyed the singing of Luciano Pavarotti so much that he would refuse to go out of doors when a Pavarotti concert was being shown on television. Animal abusers have for years dismissed bird song as merely mating calls. Who can say that birds do not sing to give themselves and others pleasure? An Indian elephant in a zoo used to split an apple into two and then rub the two halves onto the hay to flavor it. Numerous apes have painted or drawn identifiable objects while in captivity. And when a young Indian elephant was reported to have made numerous drawings (which were highly commended by artists who did not know that the artist was an animal) other zookeepers reported that their elephants often scribbled on the ground with sticks or stones. When one Asian elephant got extra attention because of her paintings nearby African elephants used the ends of logs to draw on the walls of their enclosure. The animal abusers invariably try to think the worst when considering animal behavior. When a bird takes bright objects to decorate its nest the animal abusers will claim that the bird doesn’t really know what it is doing. When a human being collects bird feathers to decorate a room they are said to be showing artistic tendencies. Vivisectors, and others who abuse animals, are blind to all this because they want to be blind to it. Animal abuse is driven by economic need and there is no place for sentiment and compassion when money is at stake. Vivisectors tear animals away from their partners, their friends and their relatives with no regard for their feelings – or for the feelings of the animals they have left behind. When animals are born in zoos the keepers and jailers claim that this is evidence that the animals are happy. Would they also claim that the fact that babies were born in concentration camps is evidence that concentration camp inmates were happy? What trickery the animal abusers use in their sordid attempts to excuse their brutality. Animals in captivity often die far younger than they would die if they were allowed to roam free. At one oceanarium a famous pilot whale was actually thirteen different pilot whales.

 

Smarter, Kinder, Better

 

Many other species – from families as varied as ants and dolphins – are smarter, kinder and better at creating societies, which work than are human beings. A survey showed that almost half of all the women in one US city had been raped or subjected to attempted rape at least once in their lives. Just think of the torture performed by humans on other humans. Animal abusers will leap on every example they can find of apparent bad behaviour’ by animals and use that example to draw far-reaching conclusions about all animals. They ignore the fact that the bad behavior’ to which they refer may well have been triggered by human aggression. Do the animal abusers who leap upon one example of bad animal behavior as significant also suggest that because one human murders, tortures or rapes we must all be judged by that individual? Are all human beings to be judged to be as barbaric and evil as vivisectors? As I have described in my book Why Animal Experiments Must Stop experimenters have deliberately planned and executed experiments designed to make animals feel depressed. When they have succeeded in making animals depressed they have written up their experiments as though proud of themselves for having succeeded in their evil aims. What possible purpose can there be in creating depression when there is already so much of it in the world? (And, incidentally, does not the ability of the experimental scientists to make’ animals feel depressed provide yet more proof that animals are sentient creatures?)

 

Enjoying The Suffering

 

No animal, other than the human animal, has ever deliberately performed experiments on another. No one animal, other than the human animal, has ever deliberately tortured another being. Human beings are the only species who abuse one another (and members of other species) for pleasure. Human beings are the only species who torture. Only human beings chase and attack living creatures for fun – and for the pleasure of watching the suffering. Contrary to myth, cats do not play’ with animals for fun – it is part of their learning and training process. Cats like to chase, to catch and then to kill. They kill so that they can eat and they need to practice their chasing skills. It is, however, important to remember that a cat or a kitten will be just as happy chasing a ball of paper or a piece of string (particularly if it is manipulated in an effective and lifelike manner). This shows that the cat doesn’t chase and catch because it enjoys the suffering which is produced – how much fun’ could there possibly be in torturing’ a ball of paper or a piece of string? Foxes are often criticized (by those who hunt them) on the grounds that they sometimes kill large numbers of hens. The implication is that the fox kills for pleasure. The truth, however, is that, like other predators who may kill more than they can eat when they have the opportunity, foxes store the food they have killed.

 

Animals As Carers

 

In their excellent book When Elephants Weep Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy report how a man called John Teal, who was working with endangered musk oxen, was at first alarmed when some dogs approached and the musk oxen snorted, stamped and thundered towards him. Before Mr Teal could move to escape, the oxen formed a defensive ring around him and lowered their horns at the dogs. It turned out that the musk oxen were protecting their new human friend in exactly the same way that they would protect their calves from predators. Animals have even been reported to have pets of their own. A chimpanzee who was thought to be lonely was given a kitten as a companion. The chimpanzee groomed the kitten, carried it about with her and protected it from harm. A gorilla called Koko had a kitten companion, which she herself named All Ball. An elephant was seen to routinely put aside some grain for a mouse to eat. Race horses who have had goat companions have failed to run as expected when separated from their friends.

 

A Sense Of Fun

 

Human beings are not the only animals to have a sense of humor and fun and to enjoy playing. Masson and McCarthy, in When Elephants Weep, report that foxes will tease hyenas by going close to them and then running away. Ravens tease peregrine falcons by flying close and closer to them. Grebes tweak the tails of dignified swans and then dive to escape. I have watched lambs play their own version of King of the Castle’ (and many other games customarily played by children). A monkey has been seen to pass his hand behind a second monkey so that he could tweak the tail of a third monkey. When the third monkey remonstrated with the second monkey the first monkey, the practical joker, was clearly enjoying himself. When scientists examined the dung of lions the lions dug up the latrine the humans had been using – and inspected the contents. Ants, fish, birds, cats, dogs, sheep, horses, monkeys, porpoises and many other creatures play.

 

The Barbaric Abuse Of Sensitive Creatures

 

Animals frequently make friends across the species barriers. There is much evidence showing that animals have helped animals belonging to a different species. Why do we have to be the only species to abuse all other creatures? Is our cruelty to other creatures really to be regarded as a sign of our wisdom, superiority and civilization? What arrogance we show in the way we treat animals. Where is our humility and sense of respect? Animals have passionate relationships with one another, they exhibit clear signs of love, they develop social lives which are every bit as complex as our own. By what right do we treat them with such contempt? Those who torture and kill animals have to claim that animals have no feelings – otherwise they would be admitting that they themselves have acted cruelly. But how they can continue to do this when there is so much scientific evidence to prove that they are utterly wrong? Those who torture and kill insist on being allowed to continue to torture and kill because they know that if they stop they will have to admit that they have spent their lives in the barbaric abuse of sensitive creatures. No one with any intelligence or sensitivity of their own can possibly doubt that animals are capable of suffering. Animal experimenters and abattoir workers degrade us all and diminish our worth as a species.

 

Better Than Animals?

 

The animal abusers will frequently argue that since human beings can speak foreign languages and do algebraic equations they are inevitably better’ than animals. What nonsense this is. Does this mean that humans who cannot speak foreign languages or do algebraic equations are not entitled to be treated with respect? And who decides which are the skills deserving of respect? If we decide that the ability to fly, run at 30 mph, see in the dark or swim under water for long distances are the skills worthy of respect there wouldn’t be many human beings qualifying for respect. Cats can find their way home without map or compass when abandoned hundreds of miles away in strange territory. How many human beings could do the same? How many humans could spin a web or build a honeycomb? We owe it to animals to treat them with respect and, at the very least, to leave them alone to live their lives on this earth free from our harm. Darwin wrote that there is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties’. He also argued that the senses and intuition, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason etc of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or sometimes even well-developed condition in the lower’ animals.’ Turtles have been observed learning a route from one place to another. To begin with they make lots of mistakes, go down cul de sacs and miss short cuts. But after a while they can reduce their journey time dramatically. Birds, which might normally be alarmed by the slightest noise, learn to ignore the noise of trains and cars when they build their nests near to railway lines or busy roads. Even oysters are capable of learning. Oysters, which live in the deep sea, know that they can open and shut their shells at any time without risk. But oysters, which live in a tidal area, learn to keep their shells closed when the tide is out – so that they don’t dry out and die. This might not quite rank alongside writing a classic novel but how many human beings can write classic novels? Animals use reason and experience to help them survive and they exhibit all of the skills, which the animal abusers like to think of as being exclusively human. All animals accumulate information, which helps them to survive and live more comfortably. Moreover, they do it just as man does – by discriminating between useful and useless information and by memorizing information, which is of value. A puppy who has been burnt on a hot stove will keep away from it just as surely as a child who has suffered a similarly unpleasant experience. Older fish learn to be wary of lures – and become far more difficult to catch than young ones. Rats learn how to avoid traps, and birds learn where telephone wires are strung (so that they don’t fly into them). Arctic seals used to live on inner ice floes to avoid the polar bears but after man arrived and proved to be a worse enemy they started living on the outer ice floes. Many animals know that they can be followed by their scent and act accordingly. A hunted deer or hare will run round in circles, double back on its own tracks, go through water and leap into the air in order to lose its pursuers. Flocks of parrots will send an advance scouting party ahead to check out that all is well.

 

Animals As Teachers

 

There is no doubt, too, that animals actively teach their young in order to pass on skills which the animal abusers generally regard as being nothing more than instinct’. I have watched an adult cat giving lessons to orphan kittens for which he had taken responsibility. The adult cat, teaching the art of stalking, would edge forwards and then stop and look over his shoulder to see if the kittens were following in the correct style. After the lesson had gone on for some time the kittens started playing behind the adult cat’s back. They got away with it for a couple of times but on the third occasion the adult cat saw them. He reached back and gave them both a clip with an outstretched paw. The kittens weren’t hurt but they paid attention again.

 

We tend to ignore the actions of other creatures because we don’t have the time to watch what they do. But even the seemingly lowly ant has a complex and sophisticated life style. Ants can communicate with one another and recognize their friends. They will clean one another, they play, they bury their dead, they store grain, they even clear land, manure it, sow grain and harvest the grass, which they have grown.

 

When animal abusers hear about this sort of behavior they dismiss it as nothing more than instinct. But is it? If a Martian looked down on earth and watched us rushing about on our routine daily work would he perhaps be tempted to describe us as incapable of original thought and responding only to instinct? We may not like it but many races of non human beings have a much greater influence on their environment than we have. There are still tribes of men who live almost naked in very crude huts and whose social structures are relatively primitive when compared to, say, the beavers who cut down trees, transport them long distances, dam rivers, construct substantial homes and dig artificial waterways. Ants plant crops and build roads and tunnels. Birds build astonishingly beautiful nests from the simplest of materials.

 

Animal abusers claim that man is the only animal to use tools. But this simply isn’t true. Even insects use tools – using small stones to pack the dirt firmly over and around their nests. Spiders use stones to keep their webs steady when the weather is stormy. Orangutans and baboons use sticks and stones as weapons. Monkeys use stones to help them crack nuts. In one zoo a monkey who had poor teeth kept (and guarded) a stone hidden in its straw for nut cracking. That monkey had a tool, which it regarded as its own property. Chimpanzees drum on hollow logs with sticks. Monkeys know how to use sticks as levers. The Indian elephant will break off a leafy branch and use it to sweep away the flies. Ants know how to keep grain in a warm, moist atmosphere without the grain sprouting. The honeycomb and the bird’s nest are wonders of architecture. Insect communities practice true and decent socialism.

 

The wonders are unending.

  • Animals are often curious and determined and hard working; loving and loyal and faithful. (But they do not harm themselves with tobacco and alcohol.)
  • We do not understand how a cat, which has been taken a hundred miles away from, its home (in a closed bag) can find its way back again.
  • But animal abusers will sew up the cat’s eyes, plant electrodes into its head and subject it to unimaginable pain and suffering in their search for personal glory.
  • The eagle and the vulture have eyes as powerful as a telescope. The swallow will travel thousands of miles every spring, only to be trapped and shot by a Maltese hunter when it dares to land for water.
  • Many animals, birds and insects can predict the coming of storms far more effectively than our allegedly scientific weather forecasters.
  • Weight for weight the tomtit has more brain capacity than a human being.
  • The animal abusers claim that animals cannot reason. But it is clear that it is the animal abusers who find reason a difficult concept.
  • The facts are abundantly clear: animals are sentient creatures. As J.Howard Moore put it: The human species constitutes but one branch in the gigantic arbour of life.’
  • How cruel and vicious a species we must look to lobsters who are boiled alive, to donkeys who are beaten beyond their endurance and to all farm animals. Not all men are humane.
  • Man is the most drunken, selfish, bloodthirsty, miserly, greedy, hypocritical being on the planet. And yet we think ourselves so damned superior. Man is the only being on the planet to kill for the sake of killing; to dress up and turn killing into a social pastime.
  • The animal abusers sneer at hyenas but they do not kill for fun.
  • Only man gloats over the accumulation of material goods, which he does not truly need. No creature is as immoral as the animal abuser. Only man needs an army of lawyers to fight over what is right and wrong. Only man has forgotten the meaning of natural justice.
  • We have created a hell on this earth for other creatures. Our abuse of animals is the final savagery, the final outrage of mankind in a long history of savagery and outrage. We have colonized other species in the same way that White Northern Europeans colonized other parts of the world. Instead of learning from other animals, instead of attempting to communicate with them, we simply thrash around wickedly, abusing, torturing, tormenting and killing. We destroy the relationships of animals with one another, with their environment and with our own race. We diminish ourselves in a hundred different ways through our cruelty and our ignorance and our thoughtlessness. Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn and his inhumanity to not-men makes the planet a ball of pain and terror,’ wrote J.Howard Moore.
  • If man were truly the master of the universe he would use his wisdom and his power to increase the comfort and happiness of all other sentient creatures. Sadly, tragically, man has used his wisdom and his power to increase the misery of other sentient creatures. Animal abusers imprison millions of animals in cruel and heartbreaking conditions and ignore their cries of pain and distress on the grounds that animals are not sentient creatures’. What self-delusional nonsense this is.
  • Sheep and cattle are left out in huge fields in cold, wet weather. They shiver and search in vain for shelter because all the trees and hedgerows have been removed to make the farm more efficient. The animal abusing farmer cares not one jot for animals: he cares only for his profits.
  • It is quite simply just as immoral to regard animals as existing for the glorification of man as it is to regard black men or women as existing to serve white men.

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things,’ wrote Albert Schweizer, man will not himself find peace.’ The merciful man is kind to all creatures.

 

source

Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century

Posted in animal liberation on December 31, 2010 by carmen4thepets

by Dr. Steven Best
Proceedings of the 2nd International Meeting for Environmental Ethics in Athens, 2010

Prologue to a Problem

We are winning many battles in the fight for freedom, rights, democracy, compassionate ethics, peace, interspecies justice, and ecology.

But we are losing the war.

The war against greed, violence, plunder, profits, and domination. The war against transnational corporations, world banks, the US Empire, and Western military machines. The war against metastasizing systems of economic growth, technological development, overproduction, overconsumption, and overpopulation.

Despite recent decades of intense social and environmental struggles, we are nevertheless losing ground in the battle for democracy and ecology.

In the last two decades, neoliberalism and globalization have destroyed social democracies, widened gaps between rich and poor, dispossessed farmers, and marketized the entire world. Alongside good-old fashioned imperialism and resource extraction, people now confront genetic engineering, biopiracy, the patenting of genes, and the control of the seed supply. McDonaldization swallows up diversity as agribusiness engulfs the world’s farmers. Corporate power is growing as people power is shrinking.

Signs of ecological distress are everywhere, from shrinking forests and depleted fisheries to vanishing wilderness and rising sea levels. Throughout history, societies have devastated local environments, but only in the last two decades has humanity upset the planetary ecology to bring about global climate change. Moreover, we now live in the era of the sixth extinction crisis in the history of the planet, the last one occurring 65 million years ago in the age of the dinosaurs. Unlike the last five, this one is caused by human activity; we are the meteor crashing into the earth. Conservation biologists predict one third to one half of the world’s plant and animal species might vanish in the next few decades. By 2050, the world’s population will be nine billion, and the meat consumption in China will double; the spike in global meat consumption has prompted the United Nations to write that the only viable path for a sustainable future is a global shift toward a vegan diet.[i]

The global capitalist world system is inherently destructive to people, animals, and nature. It is unsustainable and the bills for three centuries of industrialization and market-growth are now due. This system cannot be humanized, civilized, or made green-friendly; rather, it must be transcended through revolution at all levels—economic, political, legal, cultural, technological, moral, and conceptual.

In the last three decades, there has been growing awareness that environmentalism cannot succeed without social justice and social justice cannot be realized without environmentalism. This wisdom informed the emergence of the US environmental justice movement, Earth First! alliances with timber workers, Zapatista coalition building, and the 1999 Battle of Seattle that united workers and environmentalists.

But something is still missing, the equation remains unbalanced, the strategy cannot work. The interests of one species alone are represented and millions of others go unrecognized except as resources to be preserved for human use. But in the last three decades a new social movement has emerged — animal liberation. The power and potential of the entire animal advocacy movement has yet to be understood, but it deserves equal representation in the politics of the 21st century. Despite its numerous limitations, moreover, it has revolutionary potential that must be grasped and integrated into the project of social transformation.

Progressives fighting for peace, justice, democracy, autonomy, and ecology must acknowledge the validity of and need for the animal liberation movement for two reasons. First, on a moral level, the brutalization, exploitation, and suffering of animals is so great, so massive in degree and scope, that it demands a profound moral and political response from anyone with pretence to values of compassion, justice, rights, and nonviolence. Every year humans butcher 70 billion land and marine animals for food; millions more die in experimental laboratories, fur farm, hunting preserves, and countless other killing zones.

Second, on a strategic level, the animal liberation movement is essential for the human and earth liberation movements. In numerous key ways, the domination of humans over animals underlies the domination of human over human and propels the global ecological crisis. There cannot be revolutionary changes in ethics, psychology, society, and ecology without engaging animal liberation.

It is becoming increasingly clear that human, animal, and earth liberation movements are inseparably linked, such that none can be free until all are free. This is not a new insight, but rather a lost wisdom and truth. Recall the words of Pythagoras, who 2500 years ago proclaimed: “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” A vital task of our time is to understand the full import of this insight.

Given their symbiotic, holistic, and interlocking relationship, it is imperative that we no longer speak of human liberation, animal liberation, or earth liberation as if they were independent struggles; rather, we need to speak of total liberation. By “total liberation” I do not mean a metaphysical utopia where all sentient beings reach a perfect state of freedom and happiness in their lives, Rather, I refer to the theoretical process of holistically understanding movements in relation to one another, to capitalism, and to other modes of oppression, and to the political process of synthetically forming alliances against common oppressors, across class, racial, gender, and national boundaries, as we link democracy to ecology and social justice to animal rights.

And while I speak of the “liberation” of the earth metaphorically, I mean it quite literally for nonhuman animals, for they are the oldest, largest, most exploited, and most neglected of all exploited groups and slave classes. Like their human counterparts, nonhuman animals are sentient, conscious, feeling, and thinking beings endowed with wills, desires, interests, and more. They have abilities and potentialities that demand satisfaction, and complex physical, psychological, and social needs that can only be fulfilled in their natural settings, apart from human interference. Nonhuman animals can and must be free from systems of human domination and exploitation — as unjustifiable in principle as they are destructive in consequence — in order to be free to live out their lives as the complex beings they have become over the course of natural evolution.

I assert the need for more expansive visions and politics on both sides of the human/animal liberation equation, and to call for new forms of dialogue, learning, and strategic alliances that are all-too rare. The kind of alliance politics one finds throughout the world remains weak and abstract so long as veganism and animal liberation are excluded. These issues can no longer be ignored, marginalized, mocked, and trivialized by dogmatic, ignorant, and speciesist Leftists. Similarly, vegans and animal rights advocates can no longer afford to be single-issue and isolationist, they must understand the need to transcend the capitalist system, they must confront their own biases such as elitism, sexism and racism; and they must overcome their extreme isolation by forging alliances with social justice and environmental movements. Each movement has much to learn from the other, and no movement can achieve its goals apart from the other.

A Multiperspectival Approach to Power

A diverse and comprehensive theory of power and domination is necessary for a politics of total liberation, for alliances cannot be formed without understanding how different modes of power emerge, evolve, converge, and reinforce one another. Power is diverse, complex, and interlocking, and it cannot be adequately illuminated from the standpoint of any single group or concern.

The core problem in our world is not simply class, for class is not the only manifestation of power nor is it the font or earliest source; rather, class is a symptom not a cause of a larger system of domination organized around hierarchy. Hierarchy is both an institution and mindset that organizes differences into a rank of superior and inferior, such that the latter has no value for the sake of the former. The mindset and institutions of hierarchical domination spring from numerous phenomena such as patriarchy, racism, the state, and social classes and private property.

The origins of hierarchy are shrouded in prehistory, and naturally there are different interpretations and sharp controversies over when, where, and how hierarchy first emerged in society. For example, did the domination of nature lead to the domination of human beings, as Marxists argue, or did the domination of human beings lead to the “domination” of nature, as claimed by anarchist Murray Bookchin?[ii] Some theorists attempt to reduce all modes of oppression to one, such as gender, race, or class, which they privilege as the font of power from which all others spring.

Most notoriously, classical Marxists subsumed all struggles to class. Other social concerns such as patriarchy and racism were reduced to “questions,” dismissed as divisive, and to be postponed until creating a post-revolutionary society where allegedly they would be moot anyway. The resurfacing of bureaucracies, sexism, and racism in state socialist societies such as China and Russia refuted this Procrustean outlook. Similarly, radical feminists claim that patriarchy is the fundamental hierarchy in history. But there is strong evidence that speciesism and the domination of humans over other animals are central to key structures of domination such as class, gender, and race.

The best approach is to advance a multiperspectival optic that sees both what is similar among various modes of oppression and what is specific to each. There are a plurality of modes and mechanisms of power that have evolved throughout history, and that often overlap with and reinforce one another – as capitalism feeds off racism and sexism to exploit labor power and to divide oppressed groups from one another. However, since hierarchy was already established in human society thousands of years before the emergence of private property, economic classes, and the state, and patriarchy emerged before class stratification, these are also independent power systems.

But while people have written history from the theological perspective, the humanist perspective, and the environmental determinism perspective, to date there has been little from the animal perspective.  Marx once stated that the “riddle of history” (the origins of domination) is grasped in theory and resolved in practice by communism; in truth, however, the origin and evolution of hierarchy and dominator societies cannot be deciphered without the animal standpoint, for the ten thousand year reign of human domination over other animals is central to comprehending humanity’s most serious problems, as it is fundamental to resolving them.

Animal Standpoint Theory

According to feminist standpoint theory, each oppressed group has an important perspective or insight into the nature of society.[iii] People of color, for instance, can illuminate colonialism and the pathology of racism, while women can reveal the logic of patriarchy that has buttressed so many different modes of social power throughout history.

While animals cannot speak about their sufferings in human language, it is only from the animal standpoint – analyzing how humans have related to and exploited other animals — that we can grasp central aspects of the emergence and development of hierarchy. Without the animal standpoint, we cannot understand the core dynamics of the domination of humans over animals, the earth, and one another; the pathology of human violence, warfare, militarism, and genocide; the ongoing animal Holocaust; and the key causes of the current global ecological crisis. From the animal standpoint, we can see that the oppression of human over human and the human exploitation of nature have deep roots in the human domination over nonhuman animals.

Many anthropologists believe that the cruel forms of domesticating animals at the dawn of agricultural society ten thousand years ago created the conceptual model for hierarchy, statism, and the exploitation treatment of other human beings, as they implanted violence into the heart of human culture.  Perhaps the most decisive revolution in human history occurred in the shift from hunter-gathering to agricultural society. In place of a nomadic lifestyle, humans began to root themselves in one area, and rather than consume what nature provided they began to cultivate plants and animals, and thereby to domesticate wild species. In the process of domesticating wild plants and animals, and producing food surpluses for the first time in their history, a number of crucial things resulted: agricultural societies experienced rapid population growth, they expanded their territories, they elaborated a division of labor which evolved into the first social hierarchies, they began to see themselves as independent from nature and superior to other animals, and they physical and living processes as subject to their manipulation and control.

As a direct result of hunting, herding, and animal domestication, humans developed a dominator worldview, and the domination of animals paved the way for the domination of humans, nature, and numerous hierarchies and pathologies. The control of animals, the manipulation of their biology and bodies, the chronic exercise of violence, the creation of a hierarchy over another form of life, the coercive manipulation of living processes, the emergence of the concept of property and ownership of animals, and the detachment from their suffering – these attitudes and practices and more came to define and dominate human culture and consciousness. They established systems of power, forms of socially acceptable violence, and the rudiments of hierarchy that expanded throughout society to alter every relation humans had with one another, whereby elites transformed difference into an order of rank and usurped nature, animals, members of their own society and the societies they invaded in order to expand wealth and power.

The domination of animals and the increasingly detailed, elaborated, and entrenched speciesist ideology it spawned, paved the way for the systems whereby some humans dominated others. It provided the prototype of hierarchical thinking, and thus an ideology, along with many tactics and technology of control.  Animals were the first form of property, inherited wealth, and capital, as well as the first slaves. The domestication of animals provided the model for the sexual subjugation of women to hold as captives for breeding and labor, and predisposed ancient Mesopotamian city-states to manage their slaves in the same way they managed their livestock, to breed and exploit them for labor.  Not coincidentally, slavery emerged in Sumer, a key region of the Middle East that spawned agriculture, and evolved as an extension of animal domestication practices.  The exploitation of animals provided a model, metaphors, and technologies and practices for the dehumanization and enslavement of blacks. From castration and chaining to branding and ear cropping, breaking up families, and auctioning, whites drew on a long history of subjugating animals, and were used liberally throughout the international slave trade of the 15-19th centuries.

According to Jim Mason, farming emerged in many different regions but the Middle East distinguished itself from Egypt, Maya, Inca, Aztec, China, and India in its commitment to an expansionist and domineering way of life, rooted in and driven by the domestication of large animal animals such as cattle, horses, goats, and sheep.[iv] The system of herding endowed farming cultures with wealth and power, as it drove them to war and invasions, given the inherently expansionistic needs of animal herding, and made them singularly arrogant and aggressive cultures.  The descendents of the Middle East, those who continued the tradition of being the most ruthless and powerful dominators on the planet, were Europeans and Americans.

Dominating animals provided not only the technologies used for dominating other humans, but also the conceptual framework. In the fourth century BCE, Aristotle formulated the first explicit hierarchical philosophy. He propounded a worldview based on the teleological principle that everything exist for a purpose, which is to fulfill the needs of higher beings in the scale of perfection. The purpose of plants was the food for animals, animals to be food for us, and our purpose is to think about God and the universe. Humans have the highest minds and beings with inferior or lower intellects did not count as fully human or as human at all. Thus Aristotle justified slavery as part of the natural order of things. Thus the philosophy of rationalism was born; this is a dualistic logic whereby humans used the category of rationality to radically distinguish themselves from animals, and from other humans as well.

But once Western patriarchal norms of rationality were defined as the essence of humanity and social normality, by first using non-human animals as the measure of alterity, it was a short step to begin viewing different, exotic, and dark-skinned peoples and types as non- or sub-human. Thus, the same criterion created to exclude animals from the human community was also used to ostracize blacks, women, “madmen,” the disabled, and numerous other stigmatized groups.

The domination of human over human and its exercise through slavery, warfare, and genocide typically begins with the denigration of victims. But the means and methods of dehumanization are derivative, for speciesism provided the conceptual paradigm that encouraged, sustained, and justified western brutality toward other peoples. Throughout history our victimization of animals has served as the model and foundation for our victimization of each other. History reveals a pattern whereby first humans exploit and slaughter animals; then, they treat other people like animals and do the same to them. Whether the conquerors are European imperialists, American colonialists, or German Nazis, western aggressors engaged in wordplay before swordplay, vilifying their victims as “rats,” “pigs,” “swine,” “monkeys,” “beasts,” and “filthy animals.”

Once perceived as brute beasts or sub-humans occupying a lower evolutionary rung than white westerners, subjugated peoples were treated accordingly; once characterized as animals, they could be literally hunted down like animals. The first exiles from the moral community, animals provided a convenient discard bin for oppressors to dispose the oppressed. Colonialism was a “natural extension of human supremacy over the animal kingdom.”[v] “It seemed clear to many Europeans,” Charles Patterson writes, “that the white race had proved itself superior to the lower races of man by bringing them under its sway, just as the human species as a whole had proved itself superior to the other animals by dominating and subduing them.”[vi] Big-game hunting expeditions in Africa, India, and European colonies was the perfect symbol of European domination of land, animals, and peoples, and for millennia hunting has been a ritual of domination and vehicle for asserting male power over animals and women.

It has escaped the attention of the entire Left that the arguments they use to justify human domination over animals – that animals allegedly lack reason and language – were the same arguments used by imperialists when they slaughtered native peoples and male oppressors when they exploited women. Humanists upholding speciesist views, therefore, ironically reinforce their own domination and cannot access the animal standpoint to understand the origins of domination, and so are in no position to advance a viable politics of liberation.

In addition to sexism, racism, ablism, and other hierarchies, speciesism is directly implicated in anti-Semitism and Nazism. The Nazi vilification of Jews and all others deemed intellectually and physically “unfit” relied on identifying pariahs with animals and invoking eugenics – derived from breeding animals – to create a “pure” or “superior” race that was not “polluted” by “lower” forms of life. Moreover, the “Might is Right” ideology that humans employ to justify their brutality against animals was central to Nazi ideology. Hitler’s basic outlook was that nature is ruled by the law of struggle, and he summarized his worldview in this way: “He who does not possess power loses the right to life.” The origins of this outlook lie in the human domination of animals.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the industrialized killing employed in Nazi concentration camps was modeled on techniques that originated in US slaughterhouses in the late nineteenth century.[vii] Holocaust victims were shipped in stockcars using the same rail lines worn from transporting animals to slaughter, the prisoners were confined like battery hens, and killing zones such as Auschwitz had their own slaughterhouses on site. The total objectification of nonhuman animals, and the mechanized murder of innocent beings should have sounded a loud warning to humanity that the very technologies and bureaucratic administration of mass murder could easily be applied to them. Thus, Theodor Adorno poignantly quipped: “Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks `they’re only animals.’”

A Critique of Left Speciesism

The (Marxist/socialist/communist/progressive) Left traditionally has been behind the curve in their ability to understand and address forms of oppression not directly related to economics. It took decades for them to recognize racism, sexism, nationalism, religion, culture and everyday life, ideology and media, ecology, and other issues into their anti-capitalist framework, and they did so only under the pressure of various liberation movements. In addition to this economic reductionist framework, the entire spectrum of Leftists has uncritically absorbed the anthropocentrist, speciesist, and humanist ideologies of Western culture. Far from an alternative, radical, or liberatory framework, Leftism emerged as just another form of oppression, institutionalized violence, and dominator culture.

The problem with such myopic Leftism stems not only from Karl Marx himself, but the traditions that spawned him — modern humanism and the Enlightenment To be sure, the move from a medieval world dominated by a violent, repress, patriarchal, Catholic Church to a modern world based on science, enlightenment, and a movement toward democracy, egalitarianism, and rights was progressive. But unable to carry enlightenment in deeper directions, humanism merely perpetuated the Greco-Roman and Christian anthropocentric tradition that defines humans as separate from and superior to other animals, declares the world to exist for their purposes, and seeks to domesticate the wild. Under the spell of humanism, Western humanity elevated itself to a divine status and embarked on the reckless and hubristic project of mastering nature and advancing its empire. Humanism emphasized the separation of humanity from animals and nature, and reaffirmed the orthodox Christian concept that our goal is to dominate and conquer our natural surroundings. Humanism is a dysfunctional and violent worldview premised upon the catastrophic illusion of human separation from nature, a fallacy that has all-too-real consequences for animals and the earth, especially when driven by rapacious market logic and advanced technologies and science.

No different than the industrials and capitalists, the Left in unison championed growth, industrialization, and the domination of nature. Although Marx and Engels showed some sensitivity to ecological issues, they lumped animal welfarists, vegetarians, and anti-vivisectionists into the same petite-bourgeoisie category comprised of charity organizers, temperance fanatics, and naïve reformists.[viii] Neither had the slightest understanding of the importance of these movements for promoting health, sound science, compassionate ethics, and moral progress in general. While they appropriated Darwin’s theory of natural selection they ignored his emphasis on the continuity of life and the intelligence of animals and instead adopted mechanistic Cartesian models that reduced animals to simple instinct-governed organisms.[ix]

Anarchists are adept in analyzing hierarchy as a plurality of systems, and for criticizing Marxists for reproducing social power dynamics in their centralized systems and elite organizations. But in relation to the animal question, anarchists were and are no better than the rest of the Left. Murray Bookchin, for instance, sharply attacked anthropocentric ideologies in order to fuse radical politics with ecology, but he clung to the same speciesist views that reduce animals to brute beasts. Oblivious to scientific studies that document reason, language, culture, and technology among various animal species, Bookchin rehearses the Cartesian-Marxist mechanistic view of animals as dumb creatures devoid of reason and language. Animals therefore belong to “first nature,” rather than the effervescently creative “second nature” world of human culture. Bookchin was pioneering in linking democracy to ecology, but he ignored one of the most important causes of global crisis today – the agribusiness industry.[x]

His category of ecological crisis is therefore rather thin and empty. No society can achieve ecological sustainability if it exploits animals on the scale of current capitalist societies. Factory farming is a principle cause of major problems such as water pollution, rainforest destruction, desertification, and global warming. Moreover, it is a highly inefficient use of water, land, and crops; it therefore exacerbates world hunger and the scarcities that lead to resource wars. The global meat culture also aggravates inequality and poverty among the world’s peoples, as cattle barons and agribusiness displaces peasants and farmers from their land and communities, and resources from impoverished Southern nations flow to wealthy Northern nations. Leftists of all stripes ultimately espouse the same welfarist views that permit factory farms, fur farms, and vivisectors to sanctify the most unspeakable forms of violence and to promote the pseudo-humane code of treating slaves kindly, without recognizing the evil of slavery itself.

As with most environmentalists, the Left concern is with fisheries, not fish; with forests, not its nonhuman inhabitants; with “resources” for human use, not animals with intrinsic value. Left ecological concerns stem not from any kind of deep respect for the natural world, but rather from a position of “enlightened anthropocentrism” (a clear oxymoron) that understands the importance of a sustainable environment for the future of human existence. However promising, critiques of human alienation from and arrogance toward nature, calls for a “re-harmonization” (Bookchin) of society with ecology, and emphases on a “new ethics” that focus solely on the physical environment apart from the millions of sentient species it contains are speciesist, myopic, and inadequate.

The limitations, chauvinism, and hypocrisy of humanism are evident in the formulaic complaints of human victims of violence and oppression, who shriek that they were “treated like animals,” as if exploitation and torture are acceptable so long as inflicted on other animal species. The problem with humanism — however extensive, universal, and “progressive” — is that its bigotry renders it radically incomplete as a liberatory project, being a form of hierarchy and domination by other means. Just as anarchists saw the Marxist workers’ state as political domination under a new name, so animal liberationists view humanism of any kind – whether liberal, Marxist, or anarchist – as another vicious  system of domination and control.

The spectacle of Left speciesism is evident in the dearth of given to animal exploitation by “progressive” journals, magazines, and online sites. In the early 1990s, for example, the US Left magazine, The Nation, wrote a scathing essay that condemned the treatment of workers at a factory farm, but said nothing about the brutal exploitation of chickens confined in battery cages. In bold contrast, Gale Eisnitz’s book, Slaughterhouse, documents the exploitation of both human and nonhuman animals, showing how the violence workers inflict on animals in the killing floors spills poisons the workers’ psyches and carries over into domestic abuse as well[xi].

Consider the case of noted anarchist writer, Michael Albert, who confessed the following in a 2006 interview with an animal rights magazine: “when I talk about social movements to make the world better, animal rights does not come into my mind. I honestly don’t see animal rights in anything like the way I see women’s movements, Latino movements, youth movements, and so on … a large-scale discussion of animal rights and ensuing action is probably more than needed … but it just honestly doesn’t strike me as being remotely as urgent as preventing war in Iraq or winning a 30-hour work week.”[xii]

It is hard to fathom privileging a work reduction for humans who live relatively comfortable lives to ameliorating the obscene suffering of tens of billion of animals who are confined, tortured, and killed each year in the most unspeakable ways.  Like most within the Left, Albert betrays a shocking insensitivity to the suffering of billions of sentient individuals and he lacks the holistic vision to grasp the profound connections among the most serious problems afflicting humans, animals, and the environment.

Amidst the violence, racism, war, and social turbulence of the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned a future “world house.” In this cosmopolitan utopia, all peoples around the globe would live in peace and harmony, such that religion fulfils their spiritual needs and capitalism satisfies their material needs. But even if this sentiment could possibly be realizable within an economic system that breeds violence, war, destitution, extinction, and ecocide, until humanity radically alters its relation to animals King’s worldhouse is still a goddamn slaughterhouse­ — a concentration camp and extermination factory operated by and for the top predators. King’s “dream” for the human species is a nightmare for the billions of animals butchered each year for food, clothing, “science,” and other exploitative purposes.

The humanist nonviolent utopia will always remain a violent dystopia and hypocritical lie until society extends equality and just and equal treatment to other animals. Humanist “revolutions” are superficial by definition. Humanist “democracy” is speciesist hypocrisy. Humanism is just tribalism writ large.

Thus, from the animal standpoint, Leftism is in no way a liberating philosophy or revolutionary politics; it is rather Nazism or Stalinism toward animals and part and parcel of the most ancient and reactionary thinking that spawned the dominator culture that has been reproduced throughout history in numerous variations and permutations.[xiii]

Talk of Total Liberation or Don’t Talk at All

Human and animal liberation movements are inseparable, such that none can be free until all are free. Whereas people cannot develop peaceful, humane, and sustainable societies so long as they violently exploit animals (and thereby disrupt the environment in profound ways), so animals cannot be emancipated without profound psychological and institutional changes in societies.

Since the fates of all species on this planet are intricately interrelated, the exploitation of animals cannot but have a major impact on the human world itself – psychologically, socially, and ecologically. When human beings exterminate animals, they devastate habitats and ecosystems necessary for their own lives. When they butcher farmed animals by the billions, they ravage rainforests, turn grasslands into deserts, exacerbate global warming, and spew toxic wastes into the environment. When they construct a global system of factory farming they squander prodigious amounts of land, crops, water, energy, and crops and aggravate the problem of world hunger. When humans are violent toward fellow sentient beings, they often are violent toward one another, a tragic truism validated time and time again by serial killers who grow up abusing animals and violent men who beat the women, children, and animals of their family. When they instrumentalize animals as mere resources for their own consumption, they stunt their own psychological growth and capacities for compassion. When vivisectors torture and kill a hundred million animals a year, the injure and kill thousands of people with government approved drugs and block medical progress to cling to antiquated but profitable research paradigms. The connections go far deeper, as evident in the scholarship on the conceptual and technological relations between the domestication of animals and the emergence of patriarchy, state power, slavery, and hierarchy and domination of all kinds.

Understanding the relationship between human and animal oppression blocks the tired objection used to berate every animal advocate: “But what about human suffering?” This question assumes a zero-sum game whereby helping animals undermines human, and completely fails to grasp what Martin Luther Ling identified (in his narrow speciesist framework) as the “garment of mutual entanglement.” Whether they realize it or not, activists who promote veganism and animal rights are ipso facto engaging a vast complex of problems in the human world.

Human, animal, and environmental exploitation are tightly interconnected, such that no one form of exploitation can be abolished without ending the other. It is well understood, for instance, that human population rates drop where people are more educated and women have more rights. Also, where people are not desperately poor, they have no economic need to cut down trees or poach animals. If poaching animals in Africa is the only way poor villagers can survive, we need to eliminate economic incentives to kill by addressing the root causes of poverty.

An effective struggle for animal liberation, then, means tackling issues such as poverty, class, political corruption, and ultimately the inequalities created by transnational corporations and globalization. One cannot change destructive policies without changing the economic, political, and legal institutions and global power relations that produce and reproduce them. One cannot abolish animal exploitation without abolishing capitalism which thrives by commodifying, objectifying, transforming, and consuming the entire earth and all its prodigious life forms. And given the dismally small number of vegans and animal liberationists who militate for change, their only hope lies in building bridges with revolutionary social and environmental movements.

Any viable approach to save animals must also promote greater democracy such that decisions are not made by a corrupt few in positions of power, but by entire communities using democratic decision making procedures. The crisis in the natural world reflects a crisis in the social world, whereby corporate elites and their servants in government have centralized power, monopolized wealth, destroyed democratic institutions, and unleashed a brutal and violent war against dissent. Corporate destruction of nature and nonhuman animals is enabled by asymmetrical and hierarchical social relations, whereby capitalists commandeer the political, legal, and military system on the service of colonizing society, nature, and biodiversity. To the extent that animal and earth exploitation problems stem from or relate to social problems, they thereby require social solutions.

Lacking a sophisticated social, political, economic, and historical analysis of capitalist societies, and seeking reforms in one sector of society in order to alleviate the suffering of animals, much of the animal advocacy movement is well-deserving of the Left critique that it is a reformist, single issue movement whose demands – which potentially are radical to the extent that animal liberation threatens an economy and society deeply rooted in animal slavery – are easily contained within a totalizing global system that exploits all life and the earth for imperatives of profit, accumulation, growth, and domination.

Attacking the new slave economy, the animal liberation movement is a significant threat to global capital; it is not a revolutionary force on its own, but it is hardly reducible to a “petite bourgeois” parlor game. In their universal spread and growth, and frontal attack on capital logic and on the various slaves trades – meat, dairy, and egg; breeding and vivisecting; leather and fur; “entertainment” and so on — animal liberationists have evolved into a significant enough threat to capitalism to bear the brunt of the “eco-terrorist” label and the fiercest state repression doled out to anyone during the last decade.

Most generally, animal liberation has the potential to affect a cultural paradigm shift, away from predatory and pathological humanism and toward a new ethic, identity, and culture rooted in respect for life and harmonizing society with nature and biodiversity. Animal liberation is the culmination of a vast historical learning process whereby human beings gradually realize that arguments justifying hierarchy, inequality, and discrimination of any kind are arbitrary, baseless, and fallacious. Animal liberation builds on the most progressive ethical and political advances human beings have made in the last 200 years and carries them to their logical conclusions. It takes the struggle for rights, equality, and nonviolence to the next level, beyond the artificial moral and legal boundaries of humanism, in order to challenge all prejudices and hierarchies including speciesism.[xiv]

But social, political, and economic changes by themselves are inadequate, unless accompanied by equally deep ethical psychological changes, such as demand a Copernican revolution in human identities, whereby people realize that they belong to the earth, and the earth does not belong to them. Vegans and animal liberationist have the potential to advance rights, democratic consciousness, psychological growth, and awareness of biological interconnectedness to higher levels than previously achieved in history. Moreover, animal liberation is a dynamic social movement that challenges large sectors of the capitalist growth economy by attacking corporate agriculture and pharmaceutical giants and their suppliers.

The challenge of animal rights to Left movements that decry exploitation, inequality, and injustice; promote ecological sustainability; and advocate holistic models of social analysis is to recognize the deep interrelations between human and animal liberation. The emancipation of one species on the backs of others flouts all ethical principles of a liberation movement. Animal liberation requires that the Left transcend the comfortable boundaries of humanism in order to make a qualitative leap in ethical consideration, thereby moving the moral bar from reason and language to sentience and subjectivity. As the confrontation with ecology infinitely deepened and enriched Leftist theory and politics, so should the encounter with animal liberation.

The fight for animal liberation demands radical transformations in the habits, practices, values, and mindset of all human beings as it also entails a fundamental restructuring of social institutions and economic systems predicated on exploitative practices. Animal liberation is by no means a sufficient condition for democracy and ecology, but it is for many reasons a necessary condition of economic, social, cultural, and psychological change. Animal rights advocates promote compassionate relations toward animals, but their general politics and worldview can otherwise be capitalist, exploitative, sexist, racist, or captive to any other psychological fallacy. Uncritical of the capitalist economy and state, however, they hardly foster the broader kinds of critical consciousness that needs to take root far and wide. Just as Leftists rarely acknowledge their own speciesism, so many animal advocates reproduce capitalist and statist ideologies, to name just some ideological flaws.

The human/animal liberation movements have much to learn from one another, no movement can achieve its goals apart from the other. It is truly one struggle, one fight. There is a desperate need for more expansive visions and politics on both sides of the human/animal liberation equation, and for new forms of dialogue, learning, and strategic alliances.

A truly revolutionary social theory and movement will not just emancipate members of one species, but rather all species and the earth itself. A future revolutionary movement worthy of its name will grasp the ancient conceptual roots of hierarchy and domination, such as emerge in the animal husbandry practices of early agricultural societies, and incorporate a new ethics (ecology and animal liberation) and politics of nature that overcomes instrumentalism and hierarchical thinking and institutions in every pernicious form possible. It will grasp the incompatibility of capitalism with the most profound values and goals of humanity. It will build on the achievements of democratic, libertarian socialist, and anarchist traditions. It will incorporate radical green, feminist, and indigenous struggles.

It will merge animal, earth, and human liberation in a total liberation struggle against global capitalism and domination of all kinds. It must dismantle all asymmetrical power relations and structures of hierarchy, including that of humans over animals and the earth. It must eliminate every vicious form of prejudice and discrimination — not only racism, sexism, homophobia, and ablism, but also the scientifically false and morally repugnant lies of speciesism and humanism. It must reverse the growing power of the state, mass media, and global corporations in order to promote decentralization and democratization at all levels of society, and only then can society possibly be reconstituted in harmony with the natural world and other species.

But as they hopefully mature as a social movement, animal advocates are a powerful reminder that “social justice” is a limited political concept and that no species is free until all species are free. The slogan of the future must not be “We are all one race, the human race,” but rather: “We are one community, the biocommunity…. Gaia.”

Bibliography

Albert, Michael, “Progressives: Outreach is the Key. The Satya Interview with Michael Albert,” 2002 (http://satyamag.com/sept02/albert.html).

Best, Steven, Animal Liberation and Moral Progress: The Struggle for Human Evolution. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Books, forthcoming, 2011).

Bookchin, Murray, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, revised edition. Montreal and New York: Black Rose Books, 1991.

Eisnitz, Gale, Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry. New York: Prometheus Books, 2006.

Hartsock, Nancy, “The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism,” in Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka (eds.), Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science. Springer Publications, (283-310).

Marx, Karl, and Engels, Friedrich, “The Communist Manifesto,” in Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1978.

Mason, Jim Mason, An Unnatural Order: The Roots of Our Destruction of Nature. New York: Lantern Books, 2006.

Patterson, Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust. New York: Lantern Books, 2002.

U.N. Report, “Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production,” http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/documents/pdf/PriorityProductsAndMaterials_Report_Full.pdf.


[i] “Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production,”

http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/documents/pdf/PriorityProductsAndMaterials_Report_Full.pdf.

[ii] See Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, revised edition. Montreal and New York: Black Rose Books, 1991.

[iii] On feminist standpoint theory, see Nancy Hartsock, “The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism,” in Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka (eds.), Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science. Springer Publications, (283-310).

[iv] Jim Mason, An Unnatural Order: The Roots of Our Destruction of Nature. New York: Lantern Books, 2006.

[v] Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust. New York: Lantern Books, 2002.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto,” in Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1978.

[ix] See Steven Best, Animal Liberation and Moral Progress: The Struggle for Human Evolution. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Books, forthcoming, 2011).

[x] See Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom.

[xi] Gale Eisnitz, Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry. New York: Prometheus Books, 2006.

[xii] “Progressives: Outreach is the Key. The Satya Interview with Michael Albert,” 2002 (http://satyamag.com/sept02/albert.html).

[xiii] In the last two decades in Europe and the US, Green parties have emphasized progressive social concerns in conjunction with environmental values. But Greens, the Sierra Club, and major environmental champions such as Al Gore and Bill McKibben support hunting and meat-eating and completely ignore animal rights and veganism, and thus fail to grasp the profound connections between meat consumption, factory farming, and environmental destruction. In 2007, Greenpeace called a press conference on the connection between meat production and global warming, emphasizing how methane gas from cattle is a major ozone destroying gas. But instead of advocating vegetarianism they called for consuming non-ruminant animals such as kangaroos, which they reviled as a pest that should be eliminated!

[xiv] See Best, Animal Liberation and Moral Progress.

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Prayer for Liberation of Brother and Sister Animals

Posted in animal liberation, speciesism with tags , , , , on December 25, 2010 by carmen4thepets

24 December 2010

 

May all sentient beings in the animal realm

subject to unbearable pain in labs throughout the world

be free from suffering.

May alternatives to animal experimentation and testing

be used immediately.

May Bodhicitta fill the hearts of those who imprison them.

 

May all sentient beings from the animal realm

who suffer endless days, months, years

locked in tiny cages unable to move, be

filled with peace and calm.

May the many billions waiting in slaughterhouse

lines be free of fear.

May the hearts of those who work in abattoirs

be filled with Bodhicitta so the very thought of harm is purified.

May they never kill again and may the slaughterhouse lines become immediately empty.

 

May no animal be afraid or depressed.

May their bodies be free of injuries, disease and illness.

May those who need homes, or who have been driven from them

find shelter, plentiful food & water.

May there be liberation for those

tortured for fur, entertainment or who are hunted.

 

May those who believe they are superior

to our brother & sister animals

develop perfect equanimity.

And may they realise in their hearts

that all sentient beings possess Buddha nature

And they are not ours to kill or exploit.

 

May the many billions of land and sea dwelling sentient beings

who are abused, exploited and killed due to greed, hatred and ignorance

be free of suffering

May they experience complete and perfect enlightenment,

through the virtue of my efforts and prayers.

May I be a voice for the voiceless.

In short, may all human and non-human sentient beings

live together in harmony, peace and equanimity

and achieve perfect Enlightenment quickly.

 

Like a bird…
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[animallibpress] X To Whom it may Concern X, By Walter Bond

Posted in animal liberation, animal rights, veganism with tags , , , , , , on December 12, 2010 by carmen4thepets

 

 

 

 

X To Whom it may Concern X
By Walter Bond

 


 

From Golden, Colorado jail
December 10, 2010

I was raised in a household of drug and alcohol abuse. My biological father, Mark Zuehlke, was a Vietnam vet that came back from the war and got heavy into cocaine, amphetamines and outlaw biker gangs. My mother Minerva Marie Montanzo Domench was raised in Ford Apache, Bronx and born in Puerto Rico. Their marriage produced three children, me being the youngest. My biological parents divorced when I was 12 months old. Some years later, Mark was sent to federal prison for his involvement in one of the largest cocaine/meth busts in Iowa history. I met him for the first time with I was a young man. I traveled to Yankton, South Dakota to the federal prison and visited Mark there. It is my opinion to this day that he was a deadbeat dad, a liar and a scumbag.

My two full blooded brothers, Guthrie and Trapper, were raised by our biological father and I was raised by our biological mother. It has always been unclear to me why they split us up this way, as it was arranged by my parents out of court. In any event, my mother remarried the man who became my adopted father. James Bond married my mother in 1984 at which time he adopted me and my last name was legally changed to Bond. I was in diapers when they began dating and he has been the only father I’ve ever known.

He, unlike Mark, was a good man. But he was a good man with a bad problem. My father (James Bond) was terribly addicted to alcohol. My parents soon divorced when I was ten years old and my mother and I moved to Denver, Colorado to be near her family. By the ripe old age of 12, I was smoking weed with my mother and doing drugs with my “friends”. Although I have my G.E.D. (which I received the last time I was in prison), I never made it past the 8th grade. Going to class was far less interesting than getting wasted. I met other kids like me. Friends with broken homes and druggie parents. Biker kids. Punk rock kids. Nerds, geeks and the throwaways.

It was the late 80’s and bands like Agnostic Front and Sick of it All were carving out a new style of music called “Crossover”. It was a combo of punk and metal. I fell in love! The aggression and angst were all accompanied with a message. A message I could relate to.

Then I heard straight-edge music and I was hooked (on the music, and drugs). Here was music that was even tighter, the hooks were more rhythmic and it professed ethics I just knew deep down were right. Bands such as Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today and Uniform Choice not only changed my life, they saved my life. By the age of 18, my mom had remarried. While I had an affinity for straight-edge and the drug-free lifestyle, I refused to go to school or do much of anything – besides play drums for my band “Defiance of Authority” and play hacky sack with my friends. My mother’s answer to my behavior was to move away to the Pacific Northwest with husband number 3. At that time, we lived in the mountains of Woodland Park, Colorado. I came home from spending the night at a friend’s house to find nothing but furniture marks on the floor. I did not see my mother again for 7 years.

At 18 years old without an education or job, I went back to Iowa to stay with my father. In Iowa I learned to work and work hard. Not only because my father does not tolerate laziness but also because socially, in Iowa, if you are not a hard worker than you are looked down upon. To excel at your work in the Midwest is part of the fabric of your everyday life.

By this time it was well into the 90’s and two polar extremes were very apparent in my life. On one hand the straight-edge scene was huge. A new sound had hit and hit hard. Bands like Earth Crisis, Strife, and Snapcase were leading the way and it was an amazing time to wear an ‘X’ on your hand. Back then, straight-edge was more than just a “personal choice”. It was seriously attempting to stand against drug culture. On the other hand, I had recently met and started getting to know my brother, Trapper. He was hooked on meth. I had never had a brother before and I loved him with all my heart. I loved him blindly. He would steal from me and I would ignore it. He would lie straight into my face and I would excuse it. My brother was always a master and genius at sensing a person’s emotional vulnerability and using it to his maximum advantage. Along with Trapper, nearly everyone I had known from Elementary School was either hooked on meth, dealing it, or both. I was fed up. At this point in my life I had been through so much because of other people’s (and my own) drug use that I took drastic measures and attacked the source of all this insanity. The dealers themselves. As most know, I attacked with fire the biggest meth dealer in my town.

The four years I spent in prison was without any support from the straight-edge scene or anyone else. For purposes on self-preservation, most people that truly did know me distanced themselves, as expected, not wanting to become a target of persecution as well. I worked in the prison laundry room for $1.10 a day. That was the extent of my funds. I was also vegan at that time and had been for year before my arrest. Luckily the prison system was just beginning to offer a vegan diet albeit reluctantly. I got X’s and V’s tattooed on my hands while incarcerated to pledge myself to the drug free lifestyle forever. As a prisoner, they can take everything from you except what’s in your heart and your tattoos.

When I got out of prison I found that the 90’s were over. The edge kids from the 90’s that I knew had given it up. Everybody was ‘really concerned’ about me and ‘just about to write a letter’. Suffice it to say, I was pissed off. I distanced myself from the people and the music. For years I was bitter. To me, straight-edge was very personal, life-changing and serious. Fighting against drug dealers had landed me in prison with a permanent felony record, not to mention more than one fist fight.

As the years went by, veganism and animal liberation became the focus of my life. I tried reconnecting with the younger generation of straight-edge and teach them the importance of veganism and standing up against drug culture. But with most, apathy is king. Apparently, the bulk of the straight-edge scene is about collecting records and keeping it to yourself. That and politics, politics, politics. Instead of the primary focus being on animal liberation or drug-free living, it seems that half of straight-edge is about being a Christian, Right-wing American Patriot that resemble a bunch of clean-cut cops with tattoos. Bullying people at hardcore shows and staying dedicated to the “boys only” mentality. While the other half are wanna-be Beatnik, Bohemian anarchists that go ten steps out of their way to be offended about everything, but won’t do anything except philosophize and try to squeeze the words “patriarchal” and “heteronormative” into as many conversations as possible.

I would prefer to not be so divisive as to demand that everyone adhere to my checklist of political views and believe me, I have them. But idealism and reality are not always going to meet. For instance, I have already met people in county jail whose company I enjoy. People that make me laugh. People with dynamic personalities. I am not going to deny their camaraderie just because we differ. Just like how most vegans or straight-edge people are not going to disown their parents for drinking milk or smoking cigarettes.

Presently, I am facing the trials of my life, quite literally. This time I am happy to say that many people from around the world write me often, which brings more joy to my heart than I can express. It’s awesome to know that I am not alone. But once again, I feel nothing but scrutiny and unresponsiveness from the straight-edge community. However, this time I am not in the mood. I will live my life drug-free for the rest of my life and will not ‘break edge’ as they say. But I am through with “the scene” because it has become a fashion show and politically pretentious joke. My people, my family, my sphere of concern outside of our Mother Earth and her Animal Nations is primarily for those that are moved by animal liberation and biocentrism. I have sacrificed my freedom every bit as much for the straight-edge as I have for animal rights. Outside of the best band on the planet (Earth Crisis) making a video about me (which isn’t a community supporting me, but the vanguards of it) I have received nothing but bullshit from straight-edge people, then and now.

I regret fighting so hard for a group of posers and pretentious gossip hounds, my trust isn’t free anymore. I will always have respect for those within straight-edge that use it as a foundation for militant and positive change. The rest of you mean nothing to me.

P.S. My father has been a recovering alcoholic and sober for a decade now and my mom lives in the Alaskan wilderness and is as feral and free as she ever was.

——————————————————————————

Write Bond letters of prisoner support at:

Walter Bond  # P01051760
PO Box 16700
Golden, CO 80402-6700

Walter Bond is facing federal arson charges for his alleged role as an ALF operative known as “Lone Wolf”. “Lone Wolf” took credit for three different arsons throughout the Spring and Summer of 2010 in Denver and Salt Lake City: The Skeepskin Factory, a store selling furs and pelts; Tandy Leather Store; and Tiburon, a restaurant serving foie gras.

Walter’s brother alerted the FBI and the ATF about his suspicions that his brother, Walter, was behind the attacks. While Walter was visiting Denver in July 2010, his brother helped participate in a sting operation, allegedly wearing a wire and helping procure audio evidence against Walter. Walter was arrested in Denver and is now being held in the Jefferson County Jail in Golden, Colorado awaiting trial.

Walter has been a dedicated animal rights activist and anarchist for several decades and has struggled for animal liberation and against a deadly and genocidal culture of drug abuse in the United States. Walter was the subject of a song by the vegan straight edge band Earth Crisis. The band’s song “To Ashes” was inspired by Bond’s 1998 prison sentence for arson. Bond was convicted of burning down a meth lab owned by a drug dealer who was selling to his brother.



Contact: (818) 227-5022
Animal Liberation Press Office
6320 Canoga Avenue #1500
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

www.animalliberationpressoffice.org
press@animalliberationpressoffice.org

If Pigs Could Speak

Posted in animal rights, holocaust, speciesism, veganism with tags , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2010 by carmen4thepets

by Andrew Kirschner

I am a pig.

I am a happy and affectionate animal by nature.

I like to play in the grass and nurture my young.

In the wild, I eat leaves, roots, grass, flowers, and fruits.

I have a terrific sense of smell and I am highly intelligent.

I am a pig.

I can learn tasks as quickly as chimpanzees and faster than dogs.

I wallow in mud to cool down

but I am a very clean animal

and don’t excrete anywhere near where I live.

I speak my own language that you cannot understand.

I am often loved as a house mate.

I like being in groups and live a long natural life in the wild or a safe home.

I enjoy interacting with people and I am very gentle.

I wish I could do and be all of those things

but I was born on a factory farm like billions of other pigs

and so I experience none of them.

I am a pig.

If I could speak

I would tell you that I spend my life

in a crowded and filthy warehouse

in a tiny metal crate.

The owners call it a farm so you won’t feel bad for me.

It’s not a farm.

My life is miserable from the day I’m born until the day I die.

In many cases, I live my entire life in a gestation crate

where I can’t even turn around.

I try to escape but can’t.

I suffer severe emotional and physical ailments

as a result of my confinement.

I have bruises all over my head and face

from trying to get out of my cage.

I bang my head against the bars.

It is analogous to living in a coffin.

I am a pig.

If I could speak I would tell you that

I don’t ever feel the warmth of another pig.

I only feel the cold metal bars of my cage

and the feces that I am forced to sleep in.

I don’t see daylight until a trucker drives me to a slaughterhouse.

I am a pig.

I am beaten often by ruthless factory farmers

who take pleasure in hearing me squeal.

I am constantly impregnated

and do not have any interaction with my piglets.

My feet are tied together so I am forced to stand all day.

When I was born, I was separated from my mother.

In the wild, I would have stayed with her for five months.

Now I am forced to have 25 piglets a year through artificial insemination

as opposed to six per year I would have in the wild.

Overcrowding and the smell of being covered in raw sewage

causes many of us to go insane

and bite each other through our cages.

Sometimes we kill each other.

It’s not our nature.

My home smells of ammonia.

I sleep on concrete.

I am tied up so I can’t even roll over.

My food is loaded with fat and antibiotics

so my owners can make more money off my size.

I am never able to forage for food as I do by instinct in the wild.

I am a pig.

I am bored and have nothing to do

so I bite my tail and the tails of others

so the factory farmers cut off our tails

without any pain killers.

It is excruciating and causes infection.

When it is time for us to be killed,

We are supposed to be stunned to death with a bolt gun

until we can’t feel pain

but often the gun is not properly charged or the stunner misses,

or we’re too big and strong for it

and it fails to work properly.

Sometimes we go through the slaughter process

sticking, skinning, dismembering, and eviscerating — alive, conscious, and kicking.

I would show you pictures

but they’re too graphic.

I am a pig.

If I could speak

I would tell you we suffer horribly.

Our death is slow and violent torture.

It can last as long as 20 minutes.

If you saw it happen,

you would probably never eat an animal like me

ever again.

That’s why what happens inside factory farms

is the best kept secret

in the world.

I am a pig.

You can dismiss me as a worthless animal.

Call me filthy even though I am clean by nature.

Say I don’t matter because I taste good to eat.

Be indifferent to my suffering.

But now you know,

I feel pain, sadness, and fear.

I suffer.

Watch videos of me squealing on the slaughter line.

See factory farmers beat me for the sake of it.

Even though I will be killed

and deprived of a humane and natural life

You now know it is wrong

and if you continue eating animals like me

when you don’t need to eat them to survive

it will be on your conscience

and you bare responsibility for the cruelty

because you’re funding it by purchasing meat

99% of which comes from factory farms

unless…

you make a decision

to live a cruelty-free life

and go vegan.

It’s much easier than you think

and it is a very fulfilling lifestyle —

healthier for you,

better for the environment,

and most of all,

does not contribute to the abuse of animals.

Please give it some thought.

 

I am no more meant to be eaten by you

than you are meant to be eaten by me.

The idea of eating me is a human creation for profit

not a divine one

or one born of necessity but rather choice.

If you could choose not to abuse an animal, would you?

If the choice of ending animal cruelty

meant making some simple changes in your life,

would you make them?

Forget about cultural norms.

Do what you know is right.

Align your compassionate heart and mind

with your actions.

 

Please stop eating pork, ham, bacon, sausage

and buying other products made from pig body parts such as leather.

I am a pig.

I’m begging you to develop the same respect for me

that you have for your dog or cat.

During the time it took you to read this message,

approximately 26,000 pigs were brutally slaughtered on factory farms.

Simply because you didn’t see it happen

doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

It did.

I am a pig.

I had only one life on this earth.

It’s too late for me

but it is not too late for you to make a change

like millions of other people

and save other animals from the life I lived.

I hope animals’ lives will begin to mean more to you now –

now that you know.

I was a pig.


 

Animal Liberation, Human Liberation and the Future of the Left

Posted in animal liberation, holocaust, speciesism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by carmen4thepets

by Dr.Steve Best

IT SEEMS LOST on most of the global anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist Left that there is a new liberation movement on the planet —animal liberation— that is of immense ethical and political significance. But because animal liberation challenges the anthropocentric, speciesist, and humanist dogmas that are so deeply entrenched in socialist and anarchist thinking and traditions, Leftists are more likely to mock than engage it.

For the last three decades, the animal liberation movement (ALM) has been one of the most dynamic and important political forces on the planet. Where “new social movements” such as Black Liberation, Native American, feminism, chicano/a, and various forms of Green and identity politics have laid dormant or become co-opted, the animal liberation movement has kept radical resistance alive and has steadily grown in numbers and strength.

Unlike animal welfare approaches that lobby for the amelioration of animal suffering, the ALM demands the total abolition of all forms of animal exploitation. Seeking empty cages not bigger cages, the ALM is the major anti-slavery and abolitionist movement of the present day, one with strong parallels to its 19th century predecessor struggling to end the slavery of African-Americans in the US. As a major expression of the worldwide ALM, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) has cost exploitation industries hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and has decommissioned numerous animal exploiters through raids and sabotage. The FBI has demonized the ALF (along with the Earth Liberation Front [ELF]) as the top “domestic terrorist” group in the US, and the ALM in general is a principal target of draconian “anti-terrorist” legislation in US and the UK.

Operating on a global level —from the UK, US, and Germany to France, Norway, and Russia— the ALM attacks not only the ideologies of capitalism that promote growth, profit, and commodification, but the property system itself with hammers and Molotov cocktails. Fully aware of the realities of the corporate-state complex, the ALM breaks with the fictions of representative democracy to undertake illegal direct action for animals held captive in fur farms, factory farms, experimental laboratories, and other gruesome hell holes where billions of animals die each year.

Since the fates of all species on this planet are intricately interrelated, the exploitation of animals cannot but have a major impact on the human world itself.[1] When human beings exterminate animals, they devastate habitats and ecosystems necessary for their own lives. When they butcher farmed animals by the billions, they ravage rainforests, turn grasslands into deserts, exacerbate global warming, and spew toxic wastes into the environment. When they construct a global system of factory farming that requires prodigious amounts of land, water, energy, and crops, they squander vital resources and aggravate the problem of world hunger. When humans are violent toward animals, they often are violent toward one another, a tragic truism validated time and time again by serial killers who grow up abusing animals and violent men who beat the women, children, and animals of their home. The connections go far deeper, as evident if one examines the scholarship on the conceptual and technological relations between the domestication of animals at the dawn of agricultural society and the emergence of patriarchy, state power, slavery, and hierarchy and domination of all kinds.

In countless ways, the exploitation of animals rebounds to create crises within the human world itself. The vicious circle of violence and destruction can end only if and when the human species learns to form harmonious relations —non-hierarchical and non-exploitative— with other animal species and the natural world. Human, animal, and earth liberation are interrelated projects that must be fought for as one. .

This essay asserts the need for more expansive visions and politics on both sides of the human/animal liberation equation, as it calls for new forms of dialogue, learning, and strategic alliances. Each movement has much to learn from the other. In addition to gaining new insights into the dynamics of hierarchy, domination, and environmental destruction from animal rights perspectives, Leftists should grasp the gross inconsistency of advocating values such as peace, non-violence, compassion, justice, and equality while exploiting animals in their everyday lives, promoting speciesist ideologies, and ignoring the ongoing holocaust against other species that gravely threatens the entire planet. Conversely, the animal rights community generally (apart from the ALM) is politically naive, single-issue oriented, and devoid of a systemic anti-capitalist theory and politics necessary for the true illumination and elimination of animal exploitation, areas where it can profit great from discussions with the Left.

Thus, I attempt to demonstrate the importance of rethinking human and animal liberation movements in light of each other, suggesting ways this might proceed. The domination of humans, animals, and the earth stem from the same power pathology of hierarchy and instrumentalism, such as can only be fully revealed and transformed by a multiperspectival theory and alliance politics broader and deeper than anything yet created. I begin with some basic historical and sociological background of the AAM, and show how the Left traditionally has responded to animal advocacy issues. I then engage the views of Takis Fotopoulos, the founder of Inclusive Democracy, and conclude with a call for mutual dialogue and learning among animal and human liberationists. .

The Diversity of the Animal Advocacy Movement

The ALM is only part, by far still the smallest part, of a growing social movement for the protection of animals I call the animal advocacy movement (AAM). The AAM has three major different (and sharply conflicting) tendencies: animal welfare, animal rights, and animal liberation. The AAM movement had humble welfarist beginnings in the early 19th century with the founding of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Britain and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in the US.[2]

Welfare organizations thereafter spread widely throughout these and other Western countries, addressing virtually every form of animal abuse. The goal of welfare organizations, however, has never been eliminating the institutions that exploit animals – be they research laboratories, factory farms, slaughterhouses, fur farms, or circuses and rodeos – but rather reducing or ameliorating animal suffering within such violent and repressive structures. Welfarists acknowledge that animals have interests, but they believe these can be legitimately sacrificed or traded away if there is some overridingly compelling human interest at stake (which invariably is never too trivial to defend against substantive animal interests). Welfarists simply believe that animals should not be caused “unnecessary” pain, and hold that any harm or death inflicted on them must be done “humanely.”[3]

In bold contrast, animal rights advocates reject the utilitarian premises of welfarism that allows the happiness, freedom, and lives of animals to be sacrificed to some alleged greater human need or purpose. The philosophy of animal rights did not emerge in significant form until the publication of Tom Regan’s seminal work, The Case for Animal Rights (1983). According to Regan and other animal rights theorists, a basic moral equality exists among human and nonhuman animals in that they are sentient, and therefore have significant interests and preferences (such as not to feel pain) that should be protected and respected.

Moreover, Regan argues, many animal species (chimpanzees, dolphins, cats, dogs, etc.) are akin to humans by having the type of cognitive characteristics that make them “subjects of a life,” whereby they have complex mental abilities that include memory, self-consciousness, and the ability to conceive of a future. Arguments that only humans have rights because they are the only animals that have reason and language, besides being factually wrong, are completely irrelevant as sentience is a necessary and sufficient condition for having rights.

Sharply opposed to the welfarist philosophies of the mainstream AAM and 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.

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. Yet, although opposed to welfarism in its embrace of egalitarianism, rights, and abolitionism, most animal rights advocates are one with welfarists in advocating strictly legal forms of change through education and legislation. Like welfarists, animal rights advocates typically accept the legitimacy of capitalist economic, political, and legal institutions, and rarely possess the larger social/political/economic context required to understand the inherently exploitative logic of capital and the structural relationship between market and state.      The adherence to bourgeois ideology that justice can be achieved by working through the pre-approved channels of the state, which is utterly corrupt and dominated by corporate interests, separates animal liberationists from rights and welfare proponents.[4]

Sometimes grounding their positions in rights philosophy, and sometimes rejecting or avoiding philosophical foundations for emphases on practical action, the ALM nonetheless seeks total liberation of animals through direct attacks on animal exploiters. Unique in its broad, critical vision, the ALM rejects capitalism, imperialism, and oppression and hierarchy of all kinds. 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.

The ALM is predominantly anarchist in ideology, temperament, and organization. Believing that the state is a tool of corporate interests and that the law is the opiate of the people, the ALM seeks empowerment and results through illegal direct action, such as rescue raids, break-ins, and sabotage. One major form of the ALM is the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which emerged in England in 1976, spread to the US by 1980, and therefore became a global movement active in over 20 countries. Whereas some elements of the ALM advocate violence against animal exploiters, the ALF adopts a non-violent credo that attacks the property but never causes injury to human life.[5]

Thus, the main division within the AAM is not between welfare and rights, as commonly argued, but rather between statist and non-statist approaches. Only the radical elements in the ALM challenge the myths of representative democracy, as they explore direct action and live in anarchist cultures. Clearly, the ALM is closest to the concerns of ID and other radical Left approaches, although it too has significant political limitations (see below).      But the pluralism of the AAM movement is not only a matter of competing welfare, rights, and liberation perspectives. Its social composition cuts across lines of class, gender, religion, age, and politics. Republicans, Democrats, Leftists, anarchists, feminists, anti-humanists, anarcho-primitivists, Greens, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and others comprise the complexity and diversity of the AAM. Unlike the issue of class struggle and labor justice, one can advocate compassion for animals from any political position, such as is clear from the influential books and articles of Matthew Scully, former speechwriter for George W. Bush.[6] However repugnant one might find Scully’s past or current political stands, his work has had a significant influence on wide range of people, such as republican elites, who otherwise would never had been sensitized to the wide spectrum of appalling cruelties to animals.

Such political diversity is both a virtue and vice. While it maximizes the influence of the AAM within the public realm, and thereby creates new legislative opportunities for animal welfare policies, there is nevertheless a lack of philosophical and political coherence, splintering the “movement” into competing and conflicting fragments. Overwhelmingly reformist and single-issue oriented (in addition to being largely white and middle/upper class), the AAM lacks a systemic social critique that grasps capital logic as a key determining force of animal exploitation and recognizes the state as a corporate-dominated structure resistant to significant social change. While there is no “animal advocacy movement” in the singular that one can build bridges with in the struggle against capitalism, there are nonetheless progressive elements within the ALM camp that understand the nature of capitalism and the state and are open to, and often experienced in, radical alliance politics. The ALM, thereby, is a potentially important force of social change, not only in relation to its struggle against animal exploitation and capitalist industries but also as an element of and catalyst to human and earth liberation struggles.

Toward A Sociology of the ALM

“We’re very dangerous philosophically. Part of the danger is that we don’t buy into the illusion that property is worth more than life … we bring that insane priority into the light, which is something the system cannot survive.”— David Barbarash, former spokesman for the ALF .

“We’re a new breed of activism. We’re not your parents’ Humane Society. We’re not Friends of Animals. We’re not Earthsave. We’re not Greenpeace. We come with a new philosophy. We hold the radical line. We will not compromise. We will not apologize, and we will not relent.”— Kevin Jonas, founder of SHAC USA .

Despite a large volume of literature on animal rights and animal liberation, and its growing political prominence, humanist and Left scholars have ignored the sociological meaning and import of animal rights/liberation struggles.[7] In this section, I seek to rectify this speciesist oversight and gross omission with a broad sociological contextualization of the animal rights/liberation struggles of the last three decades.

In the context of recent social history, one might see the ALM, first, as a “new social movement” with roots in the struggles of the 1960s and 1970s. Often described as “post-class” and “post-materialist,” new social movements seek not higher wages but rather the end of hierarchies and new relations with the natural world.

Once the labor movement was co-opted and contained after World War II, the dynamics of social struggle shifted from the capital-labor relation to broader issues of justice, freedom, and identity politics. People of color, students, feminists, gays and lesbians, peace and anti-nuclear activists, and environmentalists fought for new kinds of issues. The contemporary animal rights/liberation movements were born in the social milieu generated by the movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and form an important part of movements for progressive change. This is a consequence of their critique of hierarchy, instrumentalism, and the domination of nature in the form of nonhuman species, their contribution to environmentalism, and their role in advancing the ethic of nonviolence.

New social movements play out in a postindustrial capitalist society where the primary economic dynamics no longer involve processing of physical materials but rather consumerism, entertainment, mass media, and information. Transnational corporations such as Microsoft, Monsanto, and Novartis demonstrate the importance of science and research for the postindustrial economy. Although not recognized as such, a second way of viewing the ALM is to recognize that it is part of the contemporary anti-capitalist and anti/alter-globalization movement that attacks the corporate-dominated “globalization form above” from democratic visions manifest in the struggle for “globalization from below.”[8]

To the extent that postindustrial capital is anchored in a global science/knowledge complex, and this is driven by animal experimentation, animal liberation challenges global capitalism, in the form of what I will call the Global Vivisection Complex (GVC). More specifically, I will identify this new oppositional force the direct action anti-vivisection movement (DAAVM). This movement has emerged as a serious threat to biomedical research industries.

In the UK, for example, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical research industries are the third largest contributor to the economy; an attack on this science complex is an attack on the UK state and global capital in general. To date, the ALM in the UK and US has shut down numerous animal breeders, stopped construction of a number of major research centers, and forced HLS off the New York Stock Exchange. Clearly, the ALM is a major social force and political force. If the Left does not yet recognize this, transnational research capital and the UK and US governments certainly do, for they have demonized the ALM as a top domestic terrorist threat and are constructing police states to wage war against it.

The GVC is a matrix of power-knowledge reflecting the centrality of science in postindustrial society. It is comprised of pharmaceutical industries, biotechnology industries, medical research industries, universities, and testing laboratories. All these institutions use animals to test and market their drugs; animals are the gas and oil without which corporate science machines cannot function. As corporations like Huntingdon Life Sciences and Chiron are global in scope and have clients throughout the world, animal liberation groups such as the ALF and Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC) are also global in their resistance.

A seemingly local group like Stop Newchurch Guinea Pigs (NSGP), which waged aggressive war in an English village against a family who breed guinea pigs for research in England, is also part of the anti-globalization movement because the family they attacked —and ultimately shut down— supplied animals to the GVC. Whatever the political views of anti-vivisectionist —whether libertarian, free market, socialist, or anarchist— they are monkeywrenching globalization from above. The DAAVM disrupts corporate supply chains, thwarts their laboratory procedures, and liberates their captive slaves.

Besides the economic threat of the DAAVM, it also poses a strong philosophical and ideological threat by attacking the ideological legitimacy of animal-based “science.” The powerful, fact-based assault on the legitimacy of vivisection mounted by the DAAVM and animal rights movements is an assault on the authority of Science itself, an attack on the modern Church of Reason. The anti-vivisection movement exposes the fallacies of vivisection and reveals how science serves the interests of corporations such that objectivity is something to be bought and sold (e.g., junk science and falsified data to dispute global warming was funded by energy corporations such as Exxon-Mobil).

Like the Christian church in its hey day, the popes and priests of Science are compelled to defend their authority and power by attacking and discrediting their opponents (in academia and elsewhere). Science exerts a strong influence over government and has the power to create new laws and enforce its interests. Thus, due to intense pressure from Science, the DAAVM in the UK and US has come under fierce attack by the corporate-state complex. Both UK and US governments have placed severe limitations on free speech rights and, ultimately, have criminalized dissent, such as evident in UK laws against “glorification of terrorism” and the repressive measures if the USA PATRIOT Act. Both states have applied draconian “anti-terrorist” laws against animal liberationists and imposed harsh jail sentences for “harassment” or sabotage actions.

Thus, the DAAVM is facing the wrath of the secular church; just as Galileo said that the earth moves around the sun, so anti-vivisectionists say that research performed on one species does not apply to research performed on another, and the ALM as a whole assert that humans belong to the earth, and the earth does not belong to them. As the peace movements exposed the madness of the military-industrial complex, the anti-nuclear movement emphasized the destructive potential of nuclear power; and the environmental movement showed the ecological consequences of a growth economy, so the ARM brings to light the barbarism of enlightenment and fallacies of biomedical research.

If the ALM can be seen as a new social movement, and as an anti-capitalist and alter- globalization movement, it can also be viewed in a third way I have emphasized, namely that it is a contemporary anti-slavery and abolitionist movement.[9] Just as nineteenth century abolitionists sought to awaken people to the greatest moral issue of the day involving the slavery of millions of people in a society created around the notion of universal rights, so the new abolitionists of the 21st century endeavor to enlighten people about the enormity and importance of animal suffering and oppression. As black slavery earlier raised fundamental questions about the meaning of American “democracy” and modern values, so current discussion regarding animal slavery provokes critical examination into a human psyche damaged by violence, arrogance, and alienation, and the urgent need for a new ethics and sensibility rooted in respect for all life.

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 capitalist slave economy (which in its starkest form also includes human sweatshops and sex trades).

Abolitionists often view welfarism as a dangerous ruse and roadblock to moral progress, and often ground their position in the philosophy of rights. 19th century abolitionists were not addressing the slave master’s “obligation” to be kind to the slaves, to feed and clothe them well, or to work them with adequate rest. Rather, they demanded the total and unqualified eradication of the master-slave relation, the freeing of the slave from all forms of bondage. Similarly, the new abolitionists reject reforms of the institutions and practices of animal slavery as grossly inadequate and they pursue the complete emancipation of animals from all forms of human exploitation, subjugation, and domination.

Animal Liberation and the Left

“Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.”— Theodor Adorno

“In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”— Isaac Bashevis Singer

Animal liberation is the next necessary and logical development in moral evolution and political struggle. Animal liberation builds on the most progressive ethical and political advances human beings have made in the last 200 years and carries them to their logical conclusions. It takes the struggle for rights, equality, and nonviolence to the next level, beyond the artificial moral and legal boundaries of humanism, in order to challenge all prejudices and hierarchies including speciesism. Martin Luther King’s paradigmatic humanist vision of a “worldhouse” devoid of violence and divisions, however laudable, remains a blood-soaked slaughterhouse until the values of peace and equality are extended to all animal species.

Animal liberation requires that the Left transcend the comfortable boundaries of humanism in order to make a qualitative leap in ethical consideration, thereby moving the moral bar from reason and language to sentience and subjectivity. Just as the Left once had to confront ecology, and emerged a far superior theory and politics, so it now has to engage animal rights. As the confrontation with ecology infinitely deepened and enriched Leftist theory and politics, so should the encounter with animal rights and liberation.

Speciesism is the belief that nonhuman species exist to serve the needs of the human species, that animals are in various senses inferior to human beings, and therefore that one can favor human over nonhuman interests according to species status alone.7 Like racism or sexism, speciesism creates a false dualistic division between one group and another in order to arrange the differences hierarchically and justify the domination of the “superior” over the “inferior.” Just as society has discerned that it is prejudiced, illogical, and unacceptable for whites to devalue people of color and for men to diminish women, so it is beginning to learn how utterly arbitrary and irrational it is for human animals to position themselves over nonhuman animals because of species differences. Among animals who are all sentient subjects of a life, these differences —humanity’s false and arrogant claim to be the sole bearer of reason and language— are no more ethically relevant than differences of gender or skin color, yet in the unevolved psychology of the human primate they have decisive bearing. The theory —speciesism— informs the practice —unspeakably cruel forms of domination, violence, and killing.

The prejudice and discriminatory attitude of speciesism is as much a part of the Left as the general population and its most regressive elements, calling into question the “radical,” “oppositional,” or “progressive” nature of Left positions and politics. While condemning violence and professing rights for all, the Left fails to take into account the weighty needs and interests of billions of oppressed animals. Although priding themselves on holistic and systemic critiques of global capitalism, Leftists fail to grasp the profound interconnections among human, animal, and earth liberation struggles and the need to conceived and fight for all as one struggle against domination, exploitation, and hierarchy. From the perspective of ecology and animal rights, Marxists and other social “radicals” have been extremely reactionary forces.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels lumped animal welfarists into the same petite-bourgeoisie or reactionary category with charity organizers, temperance fanatics, and naïve reformists, failing to see that the animal welfare movement in the US, for instance, was a key politicizing cause for women whose struggle to reduce cruelty to animals was inseparable from their struggle against male violence and the exploitation of children.[10] In works such as his 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts , Karl Marx advanced a naturalistic theory of human life, but like the dominant Western tradition he posited a sharp dualism between human and nonhuman animals, arguing that only human beings have consciousness and a complex social world.

Denying to animals the emotional, social, and psychological complexity of their actual lives, Marx argued that whereas animals have an immediate and merely instinctual relation to productive activity the earth, human labor is mediated by free will and intelligence. If Marxism and other Left traditions have proudly grounded their theories in science, social radicals need to realize that science – specifically, the discipline of “cognitive ethology” which studies the complexity of animal emotions, thought, and communications – has completely eclipsed their fallacious, regressive, speciesist concepts of nonhuman animals as devoid of complex forms of consciousness and social life.[11]

While there is lively debate over whether or not Marx had an environmental consciousness, there is no question he was a speciesist and the product of an obsolete anthropocentric/dominionist paradigm that continues to mar progressive social theory and politics. The spectacle of Left speciesism is evident in the lack of articles – often due to a blatant refusal to consider animal rights issues —on animal exploitation in progressive journals, magazines, and online sites. In one case, for example, The Nation wrote a scathing essay that condemned the treatment of workers at a factory farm, but amazingly said nothing about the exploitation of thousands of chickens imprisoned in the hell of battery cages. In bold contrast, Gale Eisnitz’s powerful work, Slaughterhouse , documents the exploitation of animals and humans alike on the killing floors of slaughterhouses, as she shows the dehumanization of humans in and through routinized violence to animals.[12]

As symptomatic of the prejudice, ignorance, provincialism, and non-holistic theorizing that is rife through the Left, consider the case of Michael Albert, a noted Marxist theorist and co-founder of Z Magazine and Z Net. In a recent interview with the animal rights and environmental magazine Satya, Albert confessed: “When I talk about social movements to make the world better, animal rights does not come into my mind. I honestly don’t see animal rights in anything like the way I see women’s movements, Latino movements, youth movements, and so on … a large-scale discussion of animal rights and ensuing action is probably more than needed … but it just honestly doesn’t strike me as being remotely as urgent as preventing war in Iraq or winning a 30-hour work week.”

While I do not expect a human supremacist like Albert to see animal and human suffering as even roughly comparable, I cannot fathom privileging a work reduction for humans who live relatively comfortable lives to ameliorating the obscene suffering of tens of billion of animals who are confined, tortured, and killed each year in the most unspeakable ways. But human and animal rights and liberation causes are not a zero-sum game, such that gains for animals require losses for humans. Like most within the Left, Albert lacks the holistic vision to grasp the profound connections between animal abuse and human suffering.

The problem with such myopic Leftism stems not only from Karl Marx himself, but the traditions that spawned him – modern humanism, mechanistic science, industrialism, and the Enlightenment. To be sure, the move from a God-centered to a human-centered world, from the crusades of a bloodthirsty Christianity to the critical thinking and autonomy ethos of the Enlightenment, were massive historical gains, and animal rights builds on them. But modern social theory and science perpetuated one of worst aspects of Christianity (in the standard interpretation that understands dominion as domination), namely the view that animals are mere resources for human use. Indeed, the situation for animals worsened considerably under the impact of modern sciences and technologies that spawned vivisection, genetic engineering, cloning, factory farms, and slaughterhouses. Darwinism was an important influence on Marx and subsequent radical thought, but no one retained Darwin’s emphasis on the intelligence of animal life, the evolutionary continuity from nonhuman to human life, and the basic equality among all species.

Social ecologists and “eco-humanists” such as Murray Bookchin condemn the industrialization of animal abuse and killing but never challenge the alleged right to use animals for human purposes. Oblivious to scientific studies that document reason, language, culture, and technology among various animal species, Bookchin rehearses the Cartesian-Marxist mechanistic view of animals as dumb creatures devoid of reason and language. Animals therefore belong to “first nature,” rather than the effervescently creative “second nature” world of human culture.

Like the Left in general, social ecologists fail to theorize the impact of animal exploitation on the environment and human society and psychology. They ultimately espouse the same welfarist views that permit and sanctify some of the most unspeakable forms of violence against animals within current capitalist social relations, speaking in the same language of “humane treatment” of animal slaves used by vivisectors, managers of factory farms and slaughterhouses operators, fur farmers, and bosses of rodeos and circuses.

The Left traditionally has been behind the curve in its ability to understand and address forms of oppression not directly related to economics. It took decades for the Left to recognize racism, sexism, nationalism, religion, culture and everyday life, ideology and media, ecology, and other issues into its anti-capitalist framework, and did so only under the pressure of various liberation movements. The tendency of the Marxist Left, in particular, has been to relegate issues such as gender, race, and culture to “questions” to be addressed, if at all, only after the goals of the class struggle are achieved. Such exclusionist and reductionist politics prompted Rosa Luxemburg, for one, to defend the importance of culture and everyday life by exclaiming, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution!”

Neo-Marxists, such as Frankfurt School theorists, grasped the importance of politics, culture, and ideology as important issues related but not reducible to economics and class, and after the 1960s Leftists finally understood ecology as more than a “bourgeois issue” or “diversion” from social struggles. In The Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno developed important insights into the relationship between the domination of humans over nature and over one another, and sometimes sympathetically evoked images of animals in captivity as important symbols of human arrogance and alienation from nature. Most notably, Herbert Marcuse emphasized the importance of a “new sensibility” grounded in non-exploitative attitudes and relations toward the natural world.

Although since the 1970s the Left has begun to seriously address the “nature question,” they have universally failed to grasp that the “animal question” that lies at the core of social and ecological issues.[13] To make the point about the interrelationships here in a simple but crucial way, consider that no society can achieve ecological sustainability if its dominant mode of food production is factory farming. The industrialized system of confining and fattening animals for human food consumption, pioneered in the US after World War II and exported globally, is a main cause of water pollution (due to fertilizers, chemicals, and massive amounts of animal waste) and a key contributor to rainforest destruction, desertification, global warming, in addition to being a highly inefficient use of water, land, and crops.[14]

Critiques of human arrogance over and alienation from nature, calls for a “re-harmonization” of society with ecology, and emphases on a “new ethics” that focus solely on the physical world apart from the millions of animal species it contains are speciesist, myopic, and inadequate. It’s as if everyone can get on board with respecting rivers and mountains but still want to eat, experiment on, wear, and be entertained by animals. Left ecological concerns stem not from any kind of deep respect for the natural world, but rather from a position of “enlightened anthropocentrism” (a clear oxymoron) that understands how important a sustainable environment is for human existence. It is a more difficult matter to understand the crucial role animals play in sustaining ecosystems and how animal exploitation often has dramatic environmental consequences, let alone more complex issues such as relationships between violence toward animals and violence to other human beings.

Moreover, it is far easier to “respect nature” through recycling, planting trees, or driving hybrid cars than it is to respect animals by becoming a vegan who stops eating and wearing animal bodies and products. Much more so than a shift in how one views the inorganic world, it is far more difficult, complex, and profound —for both philosophical and practical reason— to revolutionize one’s views toward animals and adopt ethical veganism.

In short, the modern “radical” tradition —whether, Marxist, socialist, anarchist, or other “Left” positions that include anti-racism and feminism— stands in continuity with the entire Western heritage of anthropocentrism, and in no way can be seen as a liberating philosophy from the standpoint of the environment and other species on this planet. Current Left thought is merely Stalinism toward animals.

A truly revolutionary social theory and movement will not just emancipate members of one species, but rather all species and the earth itself. A future revolutionary movement worthy of its name will grasp the ancient conceptual roots of hierarchy and domination, such as emerge in the animal husbandry practices of the first agricultural societies, and incorporate a new ethics of nature – environmental ethics and animal rights – that overcomes instrumentalism and hierarchical thinking in every pernicious form.[15] .

ID and Animal Liberation

“As Long as Men Massacre Animals, They will Kill Each Other.”— Pythagoras “Many activists do not understand the revolutionary nature of this movement. We are fighting a major war, defending animals and our very planet from human greed and destruction.”— David Barbarash, former ALF Press Officer

As the AAM is not a monolithic entity, but rather has statist and non-statist branches, conservative and radical dimensions, Left critiques must not be overly general but rather specific to different tendencies. The issue of animal rights/liberation is important for ID and other radical orientations in that it: (1) advances a provocative critique of humanism and speciesism which are core components of Left ideology; (2) demands a broader thinking of “ecology” and “the nature question”; and (3) allows a richer and more holistic analysis of the origins and dynamics of hierarchy and domination.

As I have pointed out, the animal welfare and rights camps seek change in and through the pre-approved channels of the political and legal system, and do so from an unshakeable conviction that representative democracy works and ultimately responds to he voices of reason, compassion, and justice over the roar of vested interests, large corporations, and (even they recognize it) the structural demands of economic growth and profit. These legalist orientations, which comprise the vast bulk of animal advocacy organizations (many of them huge bureaucracies and money making machines), often win gains and “victories” for animals, yet they also legitimate and strengthen statist myths of “democracy.”[16]

Welfare and rights legalists have reduced animal suffering in a myriad of ways, ranging from adopting cats and dogs to good homes and running animal sanctuaries to ameliorating the misery of factory farmed animals. The plight of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses, in truth, is so severe, that any reduction in the hell they endure is laudable and worthy of support. While irrelevant to an abolitionist purist or a social revolutionary movement, the increase of a battery cage size by a few inches means a lot to the half dozen chickens confined within a torturously small wire prison. At the same time, however, welfare tactics do not challenge the property and commodity status of animals, and enable factory farms and slaughterhouses to put a “humane farming” stamp of approval on their murdered victims. They thereby legitimate animal laughter and alleviate consumer guilt, perhaps even enabling more confinement and killing in the long run.

Welfare and rights approaches in the AAM are largely apolitical beyond their own causes, although ideological orientations can fall anywhere on the scale from far right to far left. In most cases, legalists (1) do not have a grasp of social movement history (with which one can contextualize the significance of animal advocacy); (2) lack critiques of the logic and dynamics of global capitalism and neoliberalism; and (3) fail to see the relation between capitalism and animal exploitation. They thereby proceed without a systemic vision and political critique of the society and global system that exploits animals through industrialized systems of mass production and death.

Holistic and structural critiques of capitalism as an irrational growth system driven to exploitation and environmental destruction are a hallmark of approaches such as social ecology and Inclusive Democracy, and are crucial for the theoretical growth of the AAM. Lacking a sophisticated social and historical analysis, much of the AAM is guilty of all charges leveled above. It is well-deserving of the ID critique that it is a reformist, single issue movement whose demands —which potentially are radical to the extent that animal rights demands and affects an economy rooted to a significant degree in animal slavery— are easily contained within a totalizing global system that exploits all life and the earth for imperatives of profit, accumulation, growth, and domination.

In bold contrast to the limitations of the AAM and all other reformist causes, Takis Fotopoulos advances a broad view of human dynamics and social institutions, their impact on the earth, and the resulting consequences for society itself. Combining anti-capitalist, radical democracy, and ecological concerns in the concept of “ecological democracy,” Fotopoulos defines this notion as “the institutional framework which aims at the elimination of any human attempt to dominate the natural world, in other words, as the system which aims to reintegrate humans and nature. This implies transcending the present ‘instrumentalist’ view of Nature, in which Nature is seen as an instrument for growth, within a process of endless concentration of power.”[17]

Fotopoulos and other ID theorists offer an important analysis and critique of global capitalism and the triumph over social democracy and other political systems other than neoliberalism. As true of social ecology and Left theory in general, however, the dynamics and consequences of human exploitation of animals throughout history is entirely missing from the ID theory of nature and ecology and critique of instrumentalism.

Where the ID critique can take easy aim at the statist orientation of the AAM, the framework has to shift in its approach to the ALM, for here there are some important commonalities. First, the rhetoric and direct action tactics of the ALM show that, like ID, it understands that the state is a political extension of the capitalist economy and therefore “representative democracy” is a myth and smokescreen whereby capitalism mollifies and co-opts its opposition. Bypassing appeals to politicians in the pocket of animal exploitation industries, and disregarding both the pragmatic efficacy and ethical legitimacy of existing laws, the ALM applies direct pressure against animal exploiters to undermine or end their operations and free as many animals as possible. Thus, second, from writings and communiqués, it is clear that the ALM, like ID, is anti-capitalist and has a systematic (or at least holistic) analysis of hierarchy and oppression. Third, the ALM rejects single-issue politics in favor of supporting and often forming alliances with human and environmental movements. Fourth, the anti-capitalist ideology of the ALM is, specifically, anarchist in nature. Not only are animal liberationists anarchist in their social and political outlook, they are also anarchist in their organization and tactics. The small cells that ALF activists, for example, build with one another —such that one cell is unknown to all others and thereby resistant to police penetration— are akin to anarchist affinity groups in their mutual aid, solidarity, and consciousness building.

The project to emancipate animals is integrally related to the struggle to emancipate humans and the battle for a viable natural world. To the extent that animal liberationists grasp the big picture that links animal and human rights struggles as one, and seeks to uncover the roots of oppression and tyranny of the Earth, they can be viewed as a profound new liberation movement that has a crucial place in the planetary struggles against injustice, oppression, exploitation, war, violence, capitalist neo-liberalism, and the destruction of the natural world and biodiversity.[18]

Radical animal rights/liberation activists are also active in online learning communities and information sites, such as Infoshop and Indymedia, whereby radical cultures are forming on a global level. The communities envisioned by Fotopoulos and other past and present anarchists is today largely unfolding online, as well as in events such as the protests communicated to and attended by global communities and “Liberation Fests” that feature militant speakers such as Black panthers, Native Americans, and animal and earth liberation proponents, as well as hard core music that acts as a energizing, unifying, and politicizing force. Many animal liberationists are knowledgeable of social issues, involved in human liberation struggles, politically radical and astute, and supportive of alliance politics. Crucial and novel forms of thinking, struggle, and alliances are unfolding, all without notice of much of the Left.[19]

In conditions where other social movements are institutionalized, disempowered, reformist, or co-opted, animal liberationists are key contemporary forces of resistance. They defy corporate power, state domination, and ideological hegemony. They resist the normalization and roboticization of citizens through disinformation systems (from FOX News to MSNBC), media-induced passivity, and cultural narcotics in weapons of mass distraction and endless forms of spectacle and entertainment. They literally attack institutions of domination and exploitation —not just their ideologies or concepts— with bricks, sledge hammers, and Molotov cocktails. Their militancy and courage deserves recognition, respect, and support. It is worth pointing out that where today’s radicals are mostly engaged in theory and philosophizing, the ALM is taking action against capitalism and in defense of life, often at great risk of their own personal freedom should they be caught for illegal raids or sabotage strikes.

Yet, for whatever parallels we can identify between the ALM and ID, Fotopoulos is critical of the ALM to the degree that it lacks a detailed and concrete systemic critique of global capitalism and its various hierarchical systems of power, and positive and workable strategies for radical social transformation that dismantles the state and market system in favor of direct democracy. As Fotopoulos remarks on the limitations of the ALM from his standpoint, “The development of an alternative consciousness towards animals could only be part of an antisystemic consciousness which has to become hegemonic (at the local/ regional/ national/ transnational level) before new institutions implementing an ecological democracy, as part of an ID, begins to be built. In other words, the strategy for an ecological democracy should be part of the transitional ID strategy in which direct action, although it does play a more significant role than the traditional tactics of the Left (demonstrations, etc.), still it is also in effect a defensive tactics. What we need most, in contrast, is an aggressive tactics of building alternative institutions within the present system (which would include institutions of ecological democracy) that would make the antisystemic consciousness hegemonic.”

Fotopoulos’ statement possibly devalues the importance of single issue causes such as saving species such as whales and chimpanzees from extinction, of defending the earth and struggling to preserve various land and sea animals from total extinction. Whether connected or not, it is important that radical struggles for social justice, animal rights, and ecology all unfold in as many forms as possible in this ominous era of global warming, species extinction, rainforest destruction, and rapid ecological disintegration, all results of increasingly authoritarian and exploitative social systems. Fotopoulos is entirely correct, however, in his main point. Sabotage actions —while important and rare forms of bold resistance today, saving countless thousands of animal lives and shutting down numerous exploitative operations— are rearguard, defensive, and incapable of stopping the larger juggernaut of capitalist domination and omnicide. Many of the ALM would admit as much. Positive visions for radical change, along with the concrete struggles and transitional social forms to put them in place, are urgently needed, although some theorists and activists within the ALM are contributing to this project in notable ways.

Moreover, the general thrust of Fotopoulos’ critique of the reformist tendencies dominating the AAM, such that animal friendly neocons like Matthew Scully are hailed as heroes, is correct: “Unless an antisystemic animal liberation current develops out of the present broad movement soon, the entire movement could easily end up as a kind of “painless” (for the elites) lobby that could even condemn direct action in the future, so that it could gain some “respectability” among the middle classes.” Unfortunately, these words already ring true in the pathetic spectacle of mainstream groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) applauding the FBI witchhunt on the ALM and expressing its hope to see “the end of the ALF and ELF forever,” so that the flames of radicalism are extinguished within the vacuum of reformist, compromising, single-issue, touchy-feely, puppy-hugging politics.[20]

But, as I have been arguing, the insights, learning, and changes need to come from both sides, and the animal standpoint can be highly productive for radical social politics. The animal perspective can deepen the ecological component of ID, as well as its understanding of the profound interconnections between domination of animals and domination of humans. The goal of ecological democracy cannot be achieved without working to eliminate the worst forms of animal exploitation such as occur in the global operations of factory farming. It cannot be realized without a profound critique and transformation of instrumentalism, such as which emerged as form of power over animals than over humans.

The best approach to theorizing hierarchy in its origins, development, and multifaceted, overlapping forms is through a multiperspectival, non-reductionist approach that sees what is unique to and common among various modes of domination. There are a plurality of modes and mechanisms of power that have evolved throughout history, and different accounts provide different insights into the workings of power and domination. According to feminist standpoint theory, each oppressed group has an important perspective or insight into the nature of society.[21]

People of color, for instance, can illuminate colonialism and the pathology of racism, while women can reveal the logic of patriarchy that has buttressed so many different modes of social power throughout history. While animals cannot speak about their sufferings, it is only from the animal standpoint —the standpoint of animal exploitation— that one can grasp the nature of speciesism, glean key facets of the pathology of human violence, and illuminate important aspects of misothery (hatred of nature) and the social and environmental crisis society now faces.

The animal perspective offers crucial insights into the nature of power and domination. Any theory such as social ecology or ID that claims to understand the origin, development, and dynamics of hierarchy profits considerably from taking into account the wide body of literature revealing deep connections between the domination of humans over animals and the domination of humans over one another. Any critique of “instrumentalism” as a profound psychological root of hierarchy, domination, and violence must analyze the roots of this in the domination of animals that begins in the transition from hunting and gathering cultures to agricultural society. Instrumentalism emerges as speciesism and forms a key part of anthropocentrism more generally.

In many cases, technological, ideological, and social forms of hierarchy and oppression of human over human began with the domestication, domination, and enslavement of humans over animals. In her compelling book, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery , Marjorie Spiegel shows that the exploitation of animals provided a model, metaphors, and technologies and practices for the dehumanization and enslavement of blacks.[22]

From castration and chaining to branding and ear cropping, whites drew on a long history of subjugating animals to oppress blacks. Once perceived as beasts, blacks were treated accordingly. In addition, by denigrating people of color as “beasts of burden,” an animal metaphor and exploitative tradition facilitated and legitimated the institution of slavery. The denigration of any people as a type of animal is a prelude to violence and genocide. Many anthropologists believe that the cruel forms of domesticating animals at the dawn of agricultural society ten thousand years ago created the conceptual model for hierarchy, statism, and the exploitation treatment of other human beings, as they implanted violence into the heart of human culture.

From this perspective, slavery and the sexual subjugation of women is but the extension of animal domestication to humans. James Patterson, author of Eternal Treblinka Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, reveals the common roots of Nazi genocide and the industrialized enslavement and slaughter on non-human animals.” Patterson, Jim Mason, and numerous other writers concur that the exploitation of animals is central to understanding the cause and solution to the crisis haunting the human community and its troubled relationship to the natural world.

The Need for Animal Rights Against Left Welfarist Politics

“The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.” —Arthur Shopenhauer

One clear difference between animal rights and ID is that that ID theorists view rights discourse as reformist, statist, and incompatible with ecological democracy. As argued in his article, “Towards a Democratic Liberatory Ethics, ” Fotopoulos holds that all rights (human or animal) are derived from institutions of power antithetical to decentralized democracy. Rights are mostly rights against the state, and have meaning only in social forms where political and economic power is concentrated in the hands of elites. In direct contrast, a non-statist society or inclusive democracy abolishes hierarchies in favor of the equal sharing of power; in such social settings, rights —capitalist, individualist, protective, and largely negative in nature— become meaningless. BELOW: factory farming applied to birds, one more instance of industrialized slavery.

To put it another way, the issue of rights should not arise at all in the case of a non-statist society like that of ID; it is a superfluous vestige of bourgeois institutions and ideologies. To overcome the present ethics of heteronomy, Fotopoulos argues, we need an ethics of autonomy, which can only become articulated along with a politics of autonomy. “There still remains the problem of what are the appropriate institutions and the corresponding values which would lead to the reintegration of society to nature—part of which is the problem of animal liberation. So, for ID, the problem is one of ecological democracy, which is a crucial component of an inclusive democracy … many of the deplorable forms of animal exploitation described by animal advocates are simply the necessary symptoms of a growth economy, seen as the inevitable outcome of the dynamics of the system of the market economy.”

I have no quarrels whatsoever with the position that “rights” are a bourgeois construction appropriate to capitalist market relations and state institutions where rights first and foremost are rights to acquire and accumulate property, where property is more sacred than life and is protected with the full force of the state – such as demonstrated once again in the recent conviction of the “SHAC7.” Rights, in short, are created by the capitalist elite for the capitalist elite. Nonetheless, in the current context, where property relations and state power grow stronger and more repressive every day, and where liberation, emancipation, revolution, democracy, ecology, and autonomy are remote hopes (yet still worth struggling for), at a time when global warming and biological meltdown are rapidly unfolding before our eyes, it would be a strategic error of the highest order to abandon the discourse of rights as a critical tool for animal liberation, as it has ably served the cause of all past human liberation struggles.

Whatever philosophical reservations one can voice against rights —and there are many expressed from the quarters of Marxism, feminism, communitarianism, feminism, ID, and elsewhere— the concept of rights continues to inflame rebellion and the political imagination, continues to provide a critical leverage and internal critique against capitalist exploitation. Rights discourse is embedded in the popular imagination in a way that allows people to identify with and understand the concept of animal rights, whatever straw man arguments and fallacious objections they might mount against it and are cleared up fairly easily.

The concept of rights, moveover, by insisting on the intrinsic value of animal life and providing a firm bulwark against welfarism and utilitarianism, is unambiguously abolitionist in its meaning and implications, thereby providing a conceptual, political, and legal foundation for animal liberation, as currently fought for in the context of advanced global capitalist domination and ecological decline. In a non-statist society, rights can “wither away,” but they are necessary for the animal liberation struggle in the current moment.

To put it simply, in an exploitative society such as ours, rights serve the important function of throwing up a “no trespassing” sign around an individual, prohibiting the use of someone as an unwilling means for another’s ends. Cutting through the deceptive webs spun by speciesist philosophers over centuries of time, rights apply to any being that is sentient, that has preferences and interests, regardless of any rational or linguistic properties speciesists use to circumscribe the meaning of rights with arbitrary conditions. While animals do not require human values such as the right to vote, they do need the same basic protective conditions rights assign for humans, namely the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The concept of animal rights prohibits any and all forms of exploitation, including confining and killing animals as sources of food, clothing, and entertainment. It equally prohibits using animals in experiments, however “humane” and useful to human, such that experimenting on animals against their will is no more ethically legitimate than experimenting on humans. Fotopoulos falls back on welfarist arguments that have failed miserably to reduce animal suffering, let alone bring about animal liberation. Fotopoulos writes, for example, “I would agree with a society respecting animal liberation provided that it means a new ethics will be upheld where any kind of exploitation of animals per se is ruled out. This applies in particular with respect to the use of animals for entertainment purposes, hunting, or even medical research purposes—unless it is `proven’ that no alternative means of research on a particular serious medical problem is available”

From the perspective of animal liberation, and in relation to the dogmatic humanism of the Left, this is a promising start for common ground on the wrongs of speciesism and animal exploitation. Fotopoulos recognizes the lack of justification for major forms of animal exploitation (although meat and dairy consumption go unmentioned) and includes animal liberation as part of the “new ethics” required for ecological democracy. Yet, the glaring problem here is that within the impenetrable walls of scientific dogma, researchers always insist that there are no alternatives, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy if they never seek or use them.

Fotopoulos therefore fails to break with speciesist ideology that justifies extreme injury and death to animals for “medical research” purposes if it potentially serves the dominant and most important species, human beings. Fotopoulos will have to dig deeper to tell us why the same violent procedures used on animals are not equally legitimate if used on human beings. If he appeals to the standard criterion of advanced intelligence, he will have to say why we should not experiment on 4-5 year old children rather than chimpanzees, as such primates as more intelligent than young children. It is precisely this kind of utilitarian exploitation of one being for the interests of another than the concept of rights is intended to block, hence its importance is demonstrated in this very passage by someone who sees it as untenable.

From a promising but problematic start, Fotopoulos then back peddles to support the trivial palette preferences of humans over the substantial interests to life and freedom from confinement and suffering of animals. As he writes, “However, all these issues in a democratic society are decided by the general assemblies and although I could envisage that simple majorities will be sufficient to decide many of the issues similar to the ones I mentioned, this would clearly not be the case with regards to the use of animals for food purposes. Clearly, this could only be left to the individual to decide whether s/he would like to be a vegetarian or not, if we do not wish to end up with a new kind of totalitarian society. Still, even in that case, the rules of rearing animals in accordance with the new ethics should be decided by simple majority rule and it is hoped that paedeia will play a crucial role in turning a new ecological ethics, which would be consistent with an inclusive democracy hegemonic.”

Would it not be as totalitarian to ban racism, genocide, sweatshops, and sexual exploitation of children? Or does an ID society allow the majority vote to legitimate violence, confinement, slavery, and murder if it is so unenlightened? Would Fotopoulos leave it up to individuals to decide if they want to rape and murder, just as they decide what foods to put on their plate and the conditions necessary for animals to meet their death in order to be their object of consumption? If everyone decides they wish to be carnivores, this decision by millions of people in any nation almost requires the conditions of factory farming to meet such high levels of consumer demand, The “rules of rearing animals” will be predetermined by the logic of mass carnivore consumption, despite whatever “humane” impulses they might acquire by means of paedeia and their new enlightenment?

Fotopoulos invokes a standard argument against vegans and AR advocates – that it is somehow totalitarian to tell people how they ought to live, as if the personal is not ethical and political. First, the approach used by the vegetarian/vegan movement is one of persuasive education, not enforcing ethics or dogmas on others, however strongly scientifically and ethically grounded the arguments are.

Second, is it any less “totalitarian” to enforce prohibitions against killing human beings? Why would it be any different for proscribing all forms of animal exploitation, quaint (largely modernized and simulated) “subsistence cultures” aside? Why is the worry here focused on potential “totalitarian” control of consumers – which I interpret as simple conditions of ethics applied universally and without prejudice and arbitrary limitations – while nothing is said of the totalitarian domination of animals required by the carnivorous tastes of millions or billions of flesh-eaters? Despite current myths such as exemplified by in McDonald’s images of “hamburger patches,” animals do not willingly go the factory farm and slaughterhouse to satisfy socially-conditioned human palette preferences. There is no respect for autonomy where there is coercion of complex sentient forms of life, compelling their bodies to deliver fluids and flesh for no good or rational purposes —so that human can dies prematurely of a host of diseases induced by consumption of animal protein, so that rainforests can fall, the ozone layer thin, and rivers become choked with waste.

This is a strangely relativistic argument from a theorist who argues for objectivity. Herbert Marcuse condemned this kind of “repressive tolerance” that entrenched itself in relativist positions and refused to condemn and prohibit exploitation and violence. Any future society worth fighting for will be based on principles of universal democracy that forbids any form of exploitation, regardless of the species. The democratic paedeia project needs to be articulated with humane education programs that teach connectedness with and respect for the earth and all forms of life. If children receive such instruction early in life, there is a good chance that the will of the majority will be enlightened enough to advocate ethical veganism and the philosophy of non-violence to all life.

Fotopoulos mounts another false barrier to animal liberation is his vision of a future non-statist society, ironically conflating the differences between human and nonhuman animals he otherwise is concerned to construct and protect: “I think it is incompatible with democracy itself to talk about an inclusive democracy that would be `representative’ of all sentient species. This is because democracy is inconceivable if it includes the “representative” element. Democracy is the direct expression of the political will of its participants and in this sense it is obviously impossible for non-human species to qualify as citizens, as they cannot directly express their political will. All that is possible in a genuine democracy is delegation —but not representation— of will, so that individual and social autonomy could be secured and I cannot see how this fundamental condition for democracy could be met with respect to non-human species.”

Whatever the political form of future societies, enlightened human beings will always, in some general and metaphorical sense, “represent” the interests of nonhuman species who lack a voice to communicate their needs – needs that in most cases require nothing beyond empathy and common sense to decipher.

Animals cannot participate in direct democracy in any direct way of physical presence and communication, and so advocates of animal rights unavoidably will advocate on their behalf. Thus, whereas humans can construct direct democracy to advocate their needs and interests to one another, this scenario is not possible for animals. This does not imply human superiority, just different and unique natures whereby on a planet dominated by Homo sapiens, animals require humans to speak on their behalf.

Whatever language we use to describe it, enlightened humans must speak for the animals. This is not a totalitarian project as if one human group were to speak for another who can speak for themselves. In a way, in their expressed preferences and cries of pain, the animals do express their voice, wants, needs, and preferences. We only need to listen and pay attention. But since animals are in a different ontological category of not having the capacities of human speech and reason (as we lack many of their fine qualities), we must in some sense “represent” them or serve as delegates, guardians, or ambassadors of their existence of this planet. It is irrelevant whether or not animals can meet our social contract conditions for democracy – be they those of Locke or of ID. We must acknowledge and respect their fundamental difference form us (along with our evolutionary continuities and similarities). To impose our will on them because they cannot meet our unique conditions of social life – in an incredibly arrogant, question-begging, and circular attempt to decide which beings have rights and full moral worth —is arbitrary and imperialist.

Beyond Humanism: Toward Post-Speciesist Identities and a Broader Liberation Movement

“The fate of animals is of greater importance to me than the fear of appearing ridiculous; it is indissolubly connected with the fate of men.” — Emile Zola

“Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, Man will not himself find peace.”— Dr. Albert Schweitzer

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”— Mohandas Gandhi

The basic goal of ID is ecological democracy and reintegration of society into nature. Although it is a key theoretical, ethical, and political deficit in ID, clearly a huge part of this problem demands engagement of animal rights/liberation. The challenge of animal rights to ID and other Left movements that decry exploitation, inequality, and injustice; promote ecological sustainability; and advocate holistic models of social analysis is to recognize the deep interrelations between human and animal liberation. The emancipation of one species on the backs of others not only flouts all ethical principles of a liberation movement, it contradicts it in practice. Frameworks that attempt to analyze relationships between society and nature, democracy and ecology, will unavoidably be severely limited to the extent that their concept of “nature” focuses on physical environments and ecosystems without mention of animals. Such views not only set up arbitrary ethical boundaries and moral limitations, they fail on their own grounds which seek to understand ecology. Their ecological lapses are twofold: (1) they fail to understand how factory farming and animal agriculture in general are implicated in the major environmental problems of our time, not the least of which are rainforest destruction and global warming; (2) they do not see that physical ecosystems are not self-maintained independent of organic life, but rather are dependent upon a wide range of animal species.

From the perspective of ID, one could support animal liberation as a dynamic social movement that challenges large sectors of the capitalist growth economy by attacking food and medical research sectors. The ALM is perhaps today the most vocal critic of capitalist logic and economies, drawing strong connections between the pursuit of profit and destruction of the social and natural worlds. It is a leading global, anti-capitalist force. If the ALM could gain wider public support, it could provoke a capitalist monetary crisis, as it works to bring about improved human health and medical care. Most generally, the ALM has the potential to affect a cultural paradigm shift, one that broadens ethical horizons to include nonhuman animals and leads human species identity away from the dominator paradigm so directly implicated in the ecological crisis.

One could argue that animal liberation makes its strongest contributions to the extent that it rejects single-issue politics and becomes part of a broader anti-capitalist movement. This is certainly not the present case for the overall AAM, which might be viewed as a kind of “popular front” organization that seeks unity around basic values on which people from all political orientations —from apolitical, conservative, and liberal persuasions to radical anarchists— could agree. “But, to my mind,” argues Takis Fotopoulous, “this is exactly its fundamental weakness which might make the development of an antisystemic consciousness out of a philosophy of “rights,” etc. almost impossible.”

Animal liberation is by no means a sufficient condition for democracy and ecology, but it is for many reasons a necessary condition of economic, social, cultural, and psychological change. Animal welfare/rights people promote compassionate relations toward animals, but their general politics and worldview can otherwise be capitalist, exploitative, sexist, racist, or captive to any other psychological fallacy. Uncritical of the capitalist economy and state, they hardly promote the broader kinds of critical consciousness that needs to take root far and wide. Just as Leftists rarely acknowledge their own speciesism, so many animal advocates reproduce capitalist and statist ideologies.

It seems clear, however, that all aspects of the AAM – welfare, rights, and liberationist – are contributing to a profound sea-change in human thought and culture, in the countless ways that animal interests are now protected or respected. Just as the civil rights struggles sparked moral progress and moved vast numbers of people to overcome the prejudices and discrimination of racism, so for decades the AAM is persuading increasing numbers of people to transcend the fallacies of speciesism and discard prejudices toward animals. Given the profound relation between the human domination of animals and the crisis – social, ethical, and environmental – in the human world and its relation to the natural world, groups such as the ALF is in a unique position to articulate the importance of new relations between human and human, human and animal, and human and nature.

The fight for animal liberation demands radical transformations in the habits, practices, values, and mindset of all human beings as it also entails a fundamental restructuring of social institutions and economic systems predicated on exploitative practices. The goal of ecological democracy is inconceivable so long as billions of animals remain under the grip of despotic human beings. The philosophy of animal liberation assaults the identities and worldviews that portray humans as conquering Lords and Masters of nature, and it requires entirely new ways of relating to animals and the earth. Animal liberation is a direct attack on the power human beings—whether in pre-modern or modern, non-Western or Western societies— have claimed over animals since Homo sapiens began hunting them over two million years ago and which grew into a pathology of domination with the emergence of agricultural society. The new struggle seeking freedom for other species has the potential to advance rights, democratic consciousness, psychological growth, and awareness of biological interconnectedness to higher levels than previously achieved in history.

The next great step in moral evolution is to abolish the last acceptable form of slavery that subjugates the vast majority of species on this planet to the violent whim of one. Moral advance today involves sending human supremacy to the same refuse bin that society earlier discarded much male supremacy and white supremacy. Animal liberation requires that people transcend the complacent boundaries of humanism in order to make a qualitative leap in ethical consideration, thereby moving the moral bar from reason and language to sentience and subjectivity.

Animal liberation is the culmination of a vast historical learning process whereby human beings gradually realize that arguments justifying hierarchy, inequality, and discrimination of any kind are arbitrary, baseless, and fallacious. Moral progress occurs in the process of demystifying and deconstructing all myths —from ancient patriarchy and the divine right of kings to Social Darwinism and speciesism— that attempt to legitimate the domination of one group over another. Moral progress advances through the dynamic of replacing hierarchical visions with egalitarian visions and developing a broader and more inclusive ethical community.

Having recognized the illogical and unjustifiable rationales used to oppress blacks, women, and other disadvantaged groups, society is beginning to grasp that speciesism is another unsubstantiated form of oppression and discrimination. The gross inconsistency of Leftists who champion democracy and rights while supporting a system that enslaves billions of other sentient and intelligent life forms is on par with the hypocrisy of American colonists protesting British tyranny while enslaving millions of blacks.

The commonalities of oppression help us to narrativize the history of human moral consciousness, and to map the emergence of moral progress in our culture. This trajectory can be traced through the gradual universalization of rights. By grasping the similarities of experience and oppression, we gain insight into the nature of power, we discern the expansive boundaries of the moral community, and we acquire a new vision of progress and civilization, one based upon ecological and non-speciesist principles and universal justice.

Articulating connections among human, animal, and earth liberation movements no doubt will be incredibly difficult, but it is a major task that needs to be undertaken from all sides. Just as Left humanists may never overcome speciesism, grasp the validity and significance of animal liberation, or become ethical vegans, so the animal rights movement at large may never situate the struggle for animal liberation in the larger context of global capitalism.

The human/animal liberation movements have much to learn from one another, although will be profound differences. Just as those in the Inclusive Democracy camp have much to teach many in the animal liberation movement about capital logic and global capitalism domination, so they have much to learn from animal liberation ethics and politics. Whereas Left radicals can help temper antihumanist elements in the ALM, so the ALM can help the Left overcome speciesist prejudices and move toward a more compassionate, cruelty-free, and environmentally sound mode of living. One common ground and point of department can be the critique of instrumentalism and relation between the domination of humans over animals – as an integral part of the domination of nature in general – and the domination of humans over one another. Such a conversation, dialogue, or new politics of alliance, of course, is dependent upon the Left overcoming the shackles of humanism, moving from an attitude of ridicule to a position of respect, and grasping the significance of animal rights/liberation.

Notes.
[1] For a trenchant analysis of how the exploitation of animals rebounds to trouble the human world in innumerable ways, see Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture (New York: Dutton, 1993); John Robbins, The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World (Newburyport MA: Conari Press, 2001); Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust (New York: Lantern Books 2003); and Jim Mason, An Unnatural Order: Uncovering the Roots of Our Domination of Nature and Each Other (New York: Lantern Books, 2005).+
[2] For histories of the origins and development of the AAM in the UK and US, see James M. Jasper and Dorothy Nelkin, The Animal Rights Crusade: The Growth of a Moral Protest (New York: The Free Press, 1992), and Kelly Wand (ed.), The Animal Rights Movement (San Diego: Thomson-Gale, 2003).
[3] Peter Singer’s groundbreaking 1975 book, Animal Liberation, actually is titled deceptively as it espouses utilitarian-informed welfarist not abolitionist positions.
[4] Not all self-professed “animal liberationists” reject capitalist structures and political ideologies, however, as is evident in the case of Joan Dunayer’s book, Speciesism (Derwood: Maryland: Ryce Publishing, 2004). For my critique of the naïve and bourgeois dimensions of this form of “abolitionism,” see “Beyond Welfarism, Speciesism, and Legalism: Review essay of Joan Dunyaer’s Speciesism, “ in Organization and Environment, 19:2, June 2006.
[5] For the ALF credo, seehttp://www.animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/alf_credo.htm. [6] See Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002).Note also the difference between an ethics of justice and liberation, and ethic of “mercy.”
[7] The most important exception to this rule has been efforts by numerous feminists to engage the relationship between speciesism and patriarchy. See, for instance, Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat (New York: Continuum, 1990), Carol Adams and Josephine Donovan (eds.), Beyond Animal Rights: A Feminist Caring Ethic for the Treatment of Animals (New York: Continuum, 1996); and pattrice jones, “Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the ALF“ in Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II (eds.), Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (New York: Lantern Books, 2004), pp. 137-156
[8] On the theme of the direct action anti-vivisection movement as an anti-capitalist movement, see Steven Best and Richard Kahn, “Trial By Fire: The SHAC7 and the Future of Democracy”.
[9] For more details of my analysis of the ALM as an abolitionist movement, see “The New Abolitionism: Capitalism, Slavery, and Animal Liberation”.
[10] See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto,” in Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1978), p. 496.
[11] The body of literature comprising the field of cognitive ethology is incredibly rich and vast. Donald R. Griffin was a pioneer of the scientific study of animal life and intelligence, and wrote important works such as Animal Minds (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992). For more contemporary approaches, see the excellent work of Marc Bekoff, including Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and Heart (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). :
[12] Gail Eiznitz, Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry (New York: Prometheus Books, 1997).
[13] On the “animal question” as central to the “nature question” and social change in general, see Mason, An Unnatural Order.
[14] On the environmental impact of factory farming, see Rifkin, Beyond Beef, and Robbins, The Food Revolution.
[15] For an analysis of the affinities between animal and human liberation, see Ted Benton, Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights, and Social Justice (London: Verso, 1993). [16] For more details of my critique of reformist policies in the AAM, see my article, “The Iron Cage of Movement Bureaucracy”.
[17] All quotes from Takis Fotopoulos are cited with permission from personal correspondence with the author in December 2005.
[18] For an analysis of new alliance politics movements including animal liberation, see my article, “Common Natures, Shared Fates: Toward an Interspecies Alliance Politics”.
[19] On new forms of alliance politics, see Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II (eds.) Igniting a Revolution” Voices in Defense of Mother Earth (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2006).
[20] For a critique of HSUS’ repugnant sycophancy to the FBI, see my article, “HSUS Crosses the Line”.
[21] On the concept of “standpoint theory,” see Sandra Harding, and my review of her book at–
[22] Marjorie Spiegel, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery (New York: Mirror Books, 1996).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by  VegNews  as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.

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New Study: Cats are Perfect!

Posted in cats, pets with tags on November 15, 2010 by carmen4thepets

 

Cat fanciers know the drill: Cats are perfect. They pose with precision as if arranged by a stylist, they clean themselves with languid but exact precision, and they scheme smart, sly scenarios with perfect nonchalance. They are also the poster pet for grace and elegance. They seem to defy gravity, as well as reason, with their exquisite balance–they are phenoms in the physics department. This we know. But until recently it wasn’t known that this perfection is evident all the way down to the way in which they lap liquids.

Researchers at MIT, Virginia Tech and Princeton University analyzed the way domestic and big cats drink and found that felines of all sizes take advantage of a perfect balance between two physical forces. The results were recently published in the online issue of the journal Science.

It had been known that when cats drink, they stick their tongues straight down toward the liquid with the tip of the tongue curled backwards to form a scoop, so that the top part of the tongue touches the liquid first. The new research reveals that the top surface of the cat’s tongue is the only surface to touch the liquid. Cats, unlike dogs, aren’t using their tongues like spoons after all. Instead, the cat’s lapping mechanism is much more subtle and elegant. (But don’t tell that to the cats.) The researchers observed that the smooth tip of the tongue barely brushes the surface of the liquid before the cat rapidly draws its tongue back up. As it does so, a column of milk forms between the moving tongue and the liquid’s surface. The cat then closes its mouth, pinching off the top of the column for a nice drink, while keeping its chin dry. Of course, none of that unsightly milk on the chin.

And here’s where the cat’s innate sense of physics comes into play. The liquid column is created by a subtle and perfect balance between gravity, which pulls the liquid back to the bowl, and inertia, which in physics means the tendency of the liquid to continue moving in a direction unless another force interferes. The cat instinctively knows just how quickly to lap in order to balance these two forces, and just when to close its mouth. If it waits another fraction of a second, the force of gravity will overtake inertia, causing the column to break, the liquid to fall back into the bowl, and the cat’s tongue to come up empty.

Knowing the size and speed of the tongue of various cats they studied, the researchers then developed a mathematical model involving the Froude number, a dimensionless number that characterizes the ratio between gravity and inertia. For cats of all sizes, that number is almost exactly one, indicating a perfect balance!

So the next time your puss is looking smug on the couch, just remember, she is a pretty perfectly purring machine after all.

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