Archive for the holocaust Category

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


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.

[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, see [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.


Do You Judge Meat Eaters?

Posted in animal liberation, holocaust, speciesism, veganism with tags , , , , , , on November 8, 2010 by carmen4thepets

By Eccentric Vegan on November 6th, 2010

Q: Can you ever be OK with people who eat meat? Don’t you judge them and look down on them?

A: I can be friends with omnis. The key is to make our friendship focused on nonfood activities. We simply find shared interests in other things (hiking, dogs, shopping, whatever). It’s also helpful to refrain – in general – from discussions about eating animals between defensive omnis and ethical vegans.

That said, meat is simply unjustifiable. I will never “be OK” with the behavior of eating animals. While I can “be OK” with individual people who eat animals (just like I can “be OK” with smokers or people who do other things that I do not condone), eating animals is not OK.

Eating animals is destroying the planet, contributing to major human health threats, and perpetuating extreme cruelty to animals. It’s not OK to eat animals.

Fuck With Vivisectors From Home – A Mini-Guide

Posted in animal rights, holocaust, speciesism, vivisection on September 26, 2010 by carmen4thepets

by Anonymous

Dear animal rights supporter,

Since most of us don’t want to get involved in potentially incriminating activities, the following mini-guide will teach you -if you think you still haven’t paid your share of activism- how to screw a researcher’s life without ever having to leave the comfort of your home. You will learn how to disturb them; render their mailbox and email useless; possibly freeze their web accounts; and cease their blog’s income if applicable — all done anonymously. In one attack type, within a short period of time you will be able to automate the process against a number of targets, and sit back to watch as their business crumbles due to communication failure.

Note that any of the attacks could be applied to both individuals and organizations. Try to avoid insignificant targets (Kentucky cashiers) and head for top ones (a head of some lab or university department) who’ll whine to the media about how difficult their life is becoming, thus actually helping us. Defiant activists are not only bothering, but even scaring the savages:

Interested? Good. Read on.

First of all, realize that you need a series of trusted proxies to perform all activities. I use and recommend Tor . But for a quick albeit less secure alternative, you can use web-based proxies:

Https (encrypted) proxies: & (good privacy policy) & (no or bad privacy policy) (you can access the Tor network from here without installing anything)

Http (unencrypted) proxies: & (good privacy policy)

Chaining https & http proxies (for example by connecting to proxyweb first, then to anonymouse through it) is also a good tactic to ensure that your ISP can’t monitor your activities and that the remote server will not see the proxy you’re directly using, but it might sometimes break java applications. Because web-proxies are less secure since you need to trust their privacy policy and can’t block your browser connecting directly to the target site during their use, you might want to consider Tor.

If you decide to use Tor, make sure to use an encrypted proxy before connecting to the final destination site since Tor’s “exit node” can read your traffic and would also have their IPs exposed. We don’t want to cause problems to Tor volunteers nor have them cause us problems. Professional proxy sites, on the other hand, are probably accustomed to abuse complaints anyway and usually earn compensation through ads or premium accounts. Combining both worlds, therefore, is a perfect solution for both etiquette and safety.

Know that there’s always a chance, though a slim one, that a vulnerability in encryption or timing attacks might put you in danger. Blocking your browser from saving history and cache; blocking your browser from connecting directly to the internet when using Tor (through a firewall); permanently erasing java and cookie remains with CCleaner or similar free programs; and having other people using the same IP or utilizing a wireless network (which you can claim got hacked by a neighbor or someone in a parked car outside) can help in these very unlikely cases.

Now without further ado, here are the methods.

Practical Issues > Things To Do > Activism > Army of 1

1. Prank calls on home; office; and cell phone:

You already know how annoying telemarketing calls can be, the ones preventing you from enjoying your food or watching a good movie without somebody ringing. Now imagine a whole lot of that, with a creative unpleasant message to hear every time. Top (or shall we say bottom?) doctors probably need to frequently answer numbers they don’t know. A couple of weeks with their phones constantly ringing and them complaining to their friends and colleagues (yes, they’ll help us a lot by spreading the word) will definitely make their career less popular, and create incentives for alternative research means.

Here are some sites which offer free calls from your browser plus extras. If you need to use a fake email for registration, you can use or sign up for a fastMail account dedicated to junk. I didn’t try them all. & (just rings the given number, no message could be delivered. Especially nice after midnight) , , , & (choose/type a message and a computer delivers it by phone. Phonetrick lets you pick the # to appear on caller ID) (you supply two numbers; have them call each other; and it records the phone call for you. This way you can offend two vivisectors with one click). could be used almost in the same way although it’s not even a prank site, you want to put one of the targets’ # as yours.

Here’s also a list of UNTESTED free-calls-from-browser sites recommended by several tech blogs. You can probably find more:

voipbuster, ooVoo, iCall, Click2Voice, dukaDial, FreeRinger, Evaphone, PokeTalk, Flaphone & jaxtr.

Now if you don’t want you to be using your own voice to deliver the thank-you note, use computer generated words. Here are some Text-to-speech sites:

If you’re a programmer, you might be able to develop a script or macro which dials a set of numbers using several sites automatically, and leave it on autopilot for a few days. I didn’t include the free SMS sites as they’re not as annoying as calls. If auto-sent in bulk, however, they will make it difficult for the victim to find their real SMS, which brings us to the next section…

2. Automated spamming for cell phone, home phone, mailbox, and email:

Tired of prank calls? Want something which goes on by itself without you having to run it every time? Here’s a recipe: Google the words “subscribe to OR now”, “newsletter”, “fill the form”, or “sign up”. Now put our dear lab or doctor’s phone #, home/work address, and email in every single brochure; offer; trial; sample request; and in short SPAM SOURCE you find. This was done to a spam king when his house address was disclosed after an interview, and the poor guy’s mail got lost in tons of junk mail which hoards of angry “fans” got him subscribed to.

There are several automated-form-filler addons for Firefox like FireForm which makes it easy to fill blanks such as “Name”, “Address”, etc without having to manually type or paste every time you fill one. In a couple of hours, our humanity-saving hero would be subscribed to tens of services ranging from gun catalogs to lingerie discounts, constantly bombarding his mail, email, and calling his home and cell phone. Good luck contacting everyone of them and asking them to stop, before they sell his information to even more companies. Hint: Keep the subscriptions’ direct URLs so you could easily share them with friends or fill them out for the next target later without having to search for them again, or simply subscribe to several targets from the first time (FireForm addon, for instance, allows for multiple profiles).

If the target is significant, consider syncing efforts with a comrade you trust. Two or three people focusing on one person or lab should have a devastating effect. Other than subscribing to PETA news letter and a couple of gay-site updates, consider posting his email on some popular forums so spam bots would find it as a bonus. Have those Nigerian scammers do something useful for a change. You could also do the same for a dummy email account you set up to get an idea about how much spam the target would be receiving and pat yourself on the back as it piles to 200+ daily messages.

If you can’t find his phone # or address through Google, try Zabasearch, Pipl, 123people, or Yoname. Essential stalker toolkit. An encrypted and privacy-conscience search engine is, which displays results from google.

3. Temporarily shutting an account:

Go to (or his webmail/social service/blog/webmaster) and try to log onto his account a dozen times or so. Some systems would detect a hacking attempt and shut the account for a few hours, displaying a message that you can’t log on anymore for X amount of time. Continuously doing this (for example every 12 hours) will prevent him from accessing that account. Note that this isn’t popular as it once used to be. If you try it with gmail for example, it will ask for a captcha instead of freezing the account. When implemented, can be extremely annoying though.

4. Shutting down his adsense account:

Although this scenario is unlikely for a prominent scientist, it is definitely effective against pro-animal abuse websites: If the blog has adsense, clicking on the ads continuously (the number of required clicks is a secret kept by Google, naturally, but perhaps around 50-100 times or so) will shut down the account for suspected fraud. To see if it worked, revisit the page a couple of days later and see whether the adsense ads are still there. The owner would most probably also lose all already earned money in his account. You don’t want to do this to your ex, by the way.

On a separate but relevant note, you can send snail mail through your browser (albeit not necessarily anonymously) to our animal-activist prisoners through this website without having to buy a stamp or print a letter. & (esnailer is apparently only for US. It seems down as I write this but might get back up)

If you think this short guide can be of use to any of your friends, you can email it anonymously using two or more services to ensure delivery. Examples include: (not encrypted but did work when tested) (remailer) (no privacy policy found, use caution. Better yet, use proxy)

Also ideal for anonymous thank-you notes for researchers.

If your friend has PGP: & encrypt PGP online (warning: No https. So at least one encrypted proxy is a must)

Other potentially useful email services: & (Requires registration) (your friend must know an agreed-upon password beforehand)

Also spreading the guide among activists, for instance by putting it on your site with “A crazy guy just sent me this. This is sooo wrong” note is highly recommended. Most supporters are activist-wannabees and providing them with the tools to do so without risk could lead to tremendous effects: One dedicated person working on a weekend could virtually ruin all communication means (phone, mail, & email) of several prominent vivisectors and/or labs. Also posting the guide on your site is the only way to make me know you liked it (if you did, that is), as you can’t reply back directly. Yeah I know, sorry.

Thanks for reading. And good luck on your whatever you’re doing.


Divers find whale shark with fins, tail sliced off

Posted in holocaust, OCEANS, traditions with tags , , on February 24, 2010 by carmen4thepets

NO FINS, NO TAIL A group of American and Filipino divers find a juvenile       whale shark stripped of its fins and tail and barely alive on Monday morning off Maricaban Island in Anilao, Batangas.

BATANGAS CITY—A dead whale shark without fins and a tail was buried on the shores of Tingloy Island on Tuesday morning, inscribing a sad epilogue to a Manila conference of 50 nations for the protection of the endangered fish species.

Locally known as “butanding,” the juvenile whale shark (Rhincodon typus) was found at 9:30 a.m. on Monday by a group of foreign and local divers in Barangay Maricaban on the island, 44 kilometers from this city.

It was still alive but “very weak” when the group left it at 5 p.m., said Rey Manalo, head of the Bantay-Dagat (sea patrol) in Tingloy.

Manalo said the whale shark, measuring 18 feet, could have gotten accidentally entangled in a net laid out by a group of island fishermen who were catching fish nearby.

They must have tried to rescue the creature with their bare hands but could not do so without cutting its fins and tail, he said.

Since it could no longer swim, the hapless giant fish was placed in cool waters with Bantay-Dagat personnel watching over it, Manalo said. Unfortunately, it died on Monday night and was buried on the shore the next morning, he said.


Last week, representatives of some 50 countries attended the third meeting of the International Cooperation on Migratory Sharks (SHARKS III) hosted by the Philippines in Manila. Eleven of them signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging to protect the whale sharks.

The participants also agreed to advance the protection of seven shark species that needed protection—the Basking Shark, Great White Shark, Whale Shark, Spiny Dogfish Shark, Porbeagle Shark, and Shortfin and Longfin Mako Sharks.

SHARKS III falls under the Convention on Migratory Species and Wild Animals (CMS), otherwise known as the Bonn Convention.

“The memorandum of understanding on the butanding is a breakthrough since this is the first international cooperation that would ensure the protection and conservation of the sharks all over the world,” said Dr. Mundita Lim, chief of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau and conference chair.

The document was signed by the Philippines, China, United States, Costa Rica, Palau, Congo, Senegal, Republic of Guinea, Togo, Liberia, Kenya and Ghana. At least 10 signatories are needed to make it enforceable, Lim said

Conservation plan

Lim said the forging of the memorandum of understanding was important in crafting a conservation plan that included strengthening the policies of countries on shark conservation, possible funding for shark protection, and the enforcement of transboundary regulations to ensure the welfare of migratory sharks.

The plan will cover a ban on “shark finning,” or the practice of simply harvesting the fins of sharks with the still-alive marine creatures thrown back into the sea, she said.

Studies have identified “shark finning” as one of the reasons for the rapid decline in shark population worldwide. It is estimated that 100 to 200 million sharks are killed annually for their fins—the prime ingredients for the shark-fin soup delicacy.

Lim said that the international conservation plan would be finalized in the next meeting of member-signatories to the Bonn Convention.

No coordination

“The sharks can freely swim across waters of any country. That’s why this cooperation is very important to sustain efforts for their conservation. It is important for countries to come together toward the goal of ensuring the safety of the migratory sharks that may pass by their waters,” the official said.

In Batangas, Lea Villanueva, provincial chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said the most common reasons for the death of whale sharks “are climate change and people who use illegal means to kill and earn from marine mammals.”

Villanueva said the City Environment and Natural Resources Office did not coordinate with her office about the latest butanding death.

She said she did not even see the fish before it was buried and that those who found it must have at least gathered basic information, such as length, size and width.


If Animals Spoke our Language

Posted in animal rights, holocaust, veganism with tags , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2009 by carmen4thepets

Poem by: Vegan Poet

Animals speak to us in their own way,
but if they spoke with words, what would they say?
One thing I declare, without ANY doubt:
All creatures in cages would say ‘Let me out!’

‘Watch my eyes follow your every motion’
A dog would say, ‘my life speaks of devotion’.
A horse would say, ‘A fire burns deep within me
that yearns to run through the countryside, free!’

‘You can be soft and cuddly, like I am’
illustrates an adorable little lamb.
‘Soar with your thoughts like I soar through the sky,’
advises a wood pigeon gliding by.

Help, my mother’s been shot’ a fawn would cry,
who woefully witnessed her mother die.
She’d flee in fear to her cousins and brother,
‘The scariest beast of all killed my mother.’

‘Your blindness to bovines is an oddity,
for you see us as a mere commodity.
It’s so sad; all the exploitation we’ve seen,
We are conscious beings treated like a machine.’

‘Some scientists are really quite confused
seeking answers by primates being abused.
I, with eyes that greatly resemble yours,
see madness in some things that man explores.’

‘I can’t breathe or move; I’m living in hell!’
cries a chicken from her crowded prison cell.
‘Humans inflict such excruciating pain’,
With a hook in his mouth, a fish would explain.

One way we can improve the human race
is to respect those of a different face.
We need to listen in a whole new way
to what animals are trying to say.

Mink dynasty

Posted in holocaust with tags , on December 2, 2009 by carmen4thepets

A customer at a Harbin, China, fur shopping centre, one of dozens of dedicated fur malls popping up around the country.

A global recession and animal rights activists have devastated the fur market in Europe and North America. Not so in China, where a Canadian company is leading the charge

Chris Nuttall-Smith

From Friday’s Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009 2:54PM EST Last updated on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009 10:18AM EST

The illusionist isn’t fooling anybody. The audience claps and cheers, all right, but more at the feebleness of his so-called powers than at his ability, with the help of an enormous privacy screen and an awkward delay, to transform a satiny black ranch mink bedspread and pillows into thick, brown northern sable ones. The gee-how-did-he-ever-get-that-mobile-phone-all-the-way-over-there-into-the-fur-lined-cookie-jar trick? Pure camp. But still, the crowd of high rollers, sipping Great Wall wine in the basement of Beijing’s Jinbao Place Palace of Global Luxury, is politely transfixed. Vogue and Elle China, not to mention China’s main television network and the important newspapers, have all sent cameras for the spectacle, a fashion show where the fashions are black mink cookie jars, $20,000 fisher bedspreads and picture frames made from fur.

Wong Jian Hua, the pioneering salesman whose fast-growing enterprise, called Polardeck, retails these high-end fur housewares (the firm’s mission is to “create life of joy and happiness for high-income groups in China and around the world and to introduce the aristocratic lifestyle in Europe in the 1970s into the Chinese families”) approaches the stage, beaming. “I’m sure you all enjoyed the show as much as I did,” he says. Afterwards, VIPs retreat to a suite of private dining rooms for Peking duck, lobster soup and foie gras en gelée.

While Wong was the evening’s official host, its impresario clearly was Diane Benedetti, international director of the marketing arm of Toronto-based North American Fur Auctions, the world’s No. 3 fur auction house, which produced the magic show to thank Wong for his business. To the extent that ordinary Chinese people have heard of NAFA—and more and more every day, they have—Benedetti is the reason why. Though she doesn’t speak much Mandarin, Benedetti, a former model, has made an art of blundering and charming her way into China’s booming new luxury fur market. Benedetti and her company, built from the remains of the Hudson’s Bay Co.’s New York and Canadian fur holdings, are a big part of the reason the market even exists.

At the Enaga fur factory in Zhejiang province, pelts from Canada will be turned into coats, hats and gloves—plush status symbols for China’s burgeoning upper class

She has mounted fur fashion spectacles at a military aviation museum outside of Beijing (“They had a chopper from Vietnam all full of bullet holes—it was sensational!” she says); at an international model search in Tibet, for which she was also a judge (“We were the grand finale!); in the Great Hall of the People (a newswire story a while later guessed that Mao must have been rolling in his grave); and in countless shopping malls and public squares around the country, where, when she’s not employing wildly underskilled illusionists, she arrays teepees, canoes, polar bear rugs, snow machines and models dressed like Pocahontas to sell the company’s wares.

The work is paying off. NAFA sold some $250 million worth of skins to China in 2008, accounting for more than 70% of the company’s total sales. And even as other important fur markets—Russia, in particular—dropped out almost entirely this year in the wake of the global financial crisis, China has turned that dip in global demand into an opportunity: Many Chinese manufacturers have seized on lower auction prices to increase their production; they’re betting that Chinese customers will more than pick up the slack.

The Chinese are besotted with luxury goods, but fur might well be the most in-demand luxury item of all. In Beijing and Shenyang, in the country’s frigid north and even across its monsoon-prone southeast coast, where winter temperatures can often climb into the high 20s, newly wealthy members of the country’s surging middle class can’t seem to get enough mink and wild fur coats.

The development couldn’t come at a better time for the industry. Fur sales in North America and Western Europe have collapsed in the past two decades; where customers in Chicago, New York, Montreal, Frankfurt and Milan were once the lifeblood of the fur trade, they barely warrant a footnote on the industry’s balance sheets today. So far this year, China has bought more than 80% of the global supply of raw skins. Companies like NAFA can’t afford to have their China efforts fail.

Yet before China became the industry’s saviour, the great new market was Russia, and before Russia, Japan and Korea. Through much of the 1980s, buyers from Japan and Korea bid global prices to historic levels. That bubble priced many of fur’s more established markets out of the business. When Korea and Japan collapsed in the early 1990s, they took much of the industry down with them.

So is the fur craze in the People’s Republic of Bling a bubble? Of course it is: It’s overheated, it could end at any moment, and everybody seems to be exposed. Except this time, Benedetti and her Canadian bosses are hoping the bubble won’t blow up in their faces.

It’s February auction week at NAFA’s enormous headquarters and auction house near Toronto’s Pearson airport—the most important week of the year. Sales over these five days will account for 55% of the company’s 2009 revenues. Between the wall-to-wall display racks in the company’s warehouse and the boxes of skins in the adjoining Costco-sized cold room, there are millions of animal pelts here. The timber-wolf hides, hanging from plastic ties, are bushy, frighteningly large and weirdly strokeable (the top lot will sell for $340 per skin); the lynx skins have huge paws and mottled, beautiful, snowy-orange bellies ($530). There are silver foxes, wolverines, opossums, raccoons, skunks and even squirrels, which sell for a measly $1.43 per skin.

About 430 bidders have come this year from North America, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Japan, Korea and Russia; the number’s down from 500 in 2008. But the country that will almost single-handedly prop up NAFA’s sales is China—200 Chinese bidders are here this week; 250 if you count Hong Kong. About a dozen sit just outside the auction room, playing poker, betting from stacks of 100-renminbi (RMB) notes and waiting for their lots to come up. The Chinese buyers have come largely for mink, which also happens to be NAFA’s specialty.

While NAFA sells more wild fur than any other auction house on Earth—$45 million worth in 2008—mink is the company’s mainstay. NAFA sold 5.4 million mink skins in 2008, worth $280 million. North American mink is different from the European stuff, and this, more than almost anything, gives the company its competitive advantage. The nap is shorter and finer, and the under-fur is thicker, so the pelts feel extra soft. Mink skins from North America are also lighter in weight, which makes them ideal for women’s garments. North American mink sells at a 10% to 50% premium, depending on the sex, the colour—mink comes in shades from white to pearl to sapphire to black—and the quality of the fur. The top lot of black NAFA mink can sell for between $500 and $2,100 per skin. (Depending on its length, it takes between 13 and 40 skins to make a coat.)

Pelts from Canada’s North America Fur Auctions are sewn into consumer goods. These items, however, are not destined for Western markets.

The company’s come a long way from its roots selling beaver skins to London aristocrats in the 1600s. Through much of the history of the fur trade, the Hudson’s Bay Co. was the only player that mattered, and with a few exceptions—China’s imperial court, for example, bought Canadian yellow sable from the 1700s on—the company focused almost entirely on markets in Europe and North America.

Then, in 1975, the animal rights movement seized on images of Eastern Canadian hunters bludgeoning harp seal pups in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; activists bearing cameras, U.S. senators and even Brigitte Bardot visited the ice floes to call attention to the annual hunt. Before long, activists were throwing paint on women in fur coats. Across the Western world, fur, whether wild or farmed, slipped from must-have to faux pas in little more than a decade.

Amid all this, Ken Thomson, who then owned HBC, began selling off corporate assets to pay down its debts. In 1986, Thomson sold the company’s London-based fur auction house to Finnish Fur Sales. A group of veteran Hudson’s Bay Co. managers, backed by fox and mink associations from the U.S. and Canada, bought the company’s Toronto auction house, and then Hudson’s Bay New York, and combined the two into NAFA.

The new enterprise started life in last place: In 1987, NAFA’s first year in operation (it was still called HBC Fur Sales at the time), Kopenhagen Fur Centre sold nearly six times the number of mink that NAFA did, and the Finns weren’t far behind. NAFA was even outmatched in North America: American Legend Co., based in Seattle, became known as the go-to auction for the world’s best mink.

Yet business was good, for a while. Japan and Korea, oblivious to animal welfare concerns, drove fur prices to record highs. “The fur industry has never been healthier,” the director of the Fur Institute of Canada, an industry group, said in 1987.

But the Wall Street crash that October dispatched what was left of the North American and European markets; when Japan and Korea followed a few years later, mink prices fell from their 1987 average of $52 per skin to around $20. Every week, it seemed, another fur-trade heavy went bankrupt and shut its doors. NAFA lost some $25 million in 1990 and 1991, says Herman Jansen, then the new company’s vice-president of sales and wild fur. “We were desperate,” he says. “The industry was desperate.”

There was one bright spot left in the market. Hong Kong’s garment industry, capitalizing on its access to cheap labour and experience with mass production, picked off much of the work that small ateliers and family-owned factories in Montreal, New York and Paris had been doing for centuries. As the Chinese government began to open up the mainland to outside investment, the Hong Kong Boys, as Benedetti still refers to them, began moving their factories north, to where labour costs were lower, and where a few ambitious factory owners sensed they might find an emerging market.

Workers transport pelts from one low-rise building to another at Enaga’s sprawling factory complex

Benedetti moved to Hong Kong in the mid-1980s, working as a freelance fashion consultant and fur promoter. In 1992, a Hong Kong fur company hired her to help it break into the mainland’s retail market, by producing a series of small fashion shows in northeastern China. The north of the country had a history of using fur—state-run factories churned out styleless, utilitarian jackets, often made with raccoons, fox and even house cats—“freaky fur,” as Benedetti calls it. Her shows—held in government department stores with intermittent power and bare floors—were mobbed with cash-waving locals who had never seen anything like them.

Jansen, too, had travelled to China, and he saw the potential. If China ever started buying quality fur in any quantity, the country could save the business. “We knew we had to go to China,” Jansen says. “It was just a question of how to get in.”

NAFA appealed, first, to the Hong Kong trade, but the factories there used European mink almost exclusively, and few of the owners had any intention of changing. Theirs were volume operations; they didn’t want to pay a premium price for North American mink, or to have the hassle of learning to work with a new product. The European auctions had a huge head-start on the mainland, too: Finnish Fur Sales had a long history of selling blue fox there, for the trimming on leather jackets. Kopenhagen had also made inroads, and had been allowed to throw a fashion show in Beijing just before the market crash. American Legend, meanwhile, was the preferred auction for the few manufacturers who wanted North American fur. NAFA would have to work its way up from last place.

Benedetti, working for NAFA now, hauled sample furs to malls in the country’s more promising areas, particularly in northeastern cities such as Harbin and Shenyang, inviting shoppers and factory owners to feel the difference between European and North American mink. Slowly, the company started making headway. In the fall of 1995, Benedetti used her contacts in Hong Kong to win permission for a NAFA fashion show in a stadium in Baoding, a few hours south of Beijing. She and her colleagues brought the pelts into the country in hockey bags, and transported them from their hotel to the stadium on a convoy of bicycle carts. Nausea was a constant problem: Nearly every meeting with her hosts involved elaborate, multicourse meals, and every meal was lubricated with endless, and mandatory, shots of sorghum liquor.

In the weeks leading up to the show, Benedetti told the Chinese officials that, as the show’s director, she would require headsets to communicate with her assistants backstage and in the lighting booth. “They kept saying, ‘yeah, yeah, don’t worry.’” On the day of the show, they turned up with 20-kilogram military backpack radios—the type that were used to call in air strikes during the Second World War. “It wasn’t funny at that moment.”

In spite of the difficulties, the show attracted 8,000 onlookers—a capacity crowd—as well as media attention. Images of the furs, and the company’s name, were beamed across the world’s most populous country.

But the coup de grâce came in November of 1998. Benedetti had been casting around for a truly monumental venue for months—and nabbed Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. The building, at the western end of Tiananmen Square, is sacred to China’s Communist Party. Built in a mere 10 months in 1959 by an army of “volunteers,” the hall was one of Chairman Mao’s “Ten Great Constructions.” It is the home of the National People’s Congress—the country’s rubber-stamp legislature—and has been the site of innumerable state dinners, including the one thrown for Richard Nixon during his groundbreaking visit in 1972.

Government officials rebuffed Benedetti’s request at first: Nobody had ever held a fashion show in the Hall before, much less a Western firm. The Hall could only be used for cultural events, she was told. “Well, of course it’s cultural,” Benedetti replied. “I said we wanted to—I can’t remember what kind of crap we said in those days—share our friendship.”

The result mixed pure, North American catwalk spectacle—shapely models high-stepping in high-end mink—and, true to what Benedetti promised, cultural celebration. She had the stage designed to look like part of Beijing’s Forbidden City, and for the opening scene, Benedetti dressed the models in slightly modernized takes on traditional Tibetan clothing: colourful hand-woven wool belts, wool and cotton boots, and the multihued aprons that many married Tibetan women wear. Of course, every one of the models wore fur, from red- and purple-dyed raccoon and fox, to yellow sable hats and coats. Nearly a year later, Jansen says, television coverage of the show was still playing in heavy rotation in the business-class section of China Airlines’ flights.

The little company that had been last into China had shown just how serious it was about working there—and unlike Kopenhagen, which had pulled out of the country after the fur crash at the end of the eighties, NAFA gave every indication that it was in for the long haul. “With the Chinese, it really takes time to build relationships,” says Tina Jagros, who runs NAFA’s promotional arm and has spent much of the last decade travelling there. “People want to know you’re still going to be there in five years.”

Slumping exports have meant job cuts for many apparel producers, but not for the compnay’s vibrant fur trade

Workers at the sprawling Zhejiang Zhonghui Fur and Leather Co. tannery and factory complex pull rickety bamboo handcarts filled with fox and raccoon skins through a maze of low-rise buildings. Discarded rabbit pelts lie in the roadway, fluffy white puffballs tattooed black by a hundred tires. But inside the office of Hu Jian Zhong, the company’s chairman, everything is clean and terminally shiny: The wood laminate floors gleam like polished mirrors, and a surround-sound stereo system and enormous flat-panel Samsung—now playing a very slick, albeit syntactically egregious English-language company promotional video called “Great Industry in Flourishing Era”—claims pride of place on a glossy black dais.

There are entire towns in China that make nothing but buttons, or toy bikes, or hardware for underwire bras; when a factory opens up and finds success, it doesn’t take long for workers to bolt and start up their own competing business. Tongxiang, where Hu’s company is headquartered, was traditionally a textile and leather centre, but like many other places of its kind, the city has rapidly retooled to catch the latest trend, transforming itself into a sort of Fur City. Hu’s complex is one of the biggest. The operation manufactures 150,000 fur garments a year, and consumes one million sheepskins and 150,000 mink annually (50,000 of these mink skins were purchased at NAFA’s auction in Toronto earlier this year).

NAFA is hoping to help take the company’s business upmarket. Most of the furs that Zhejiang Zhonghui produces are low-to-middle quality at best. One visiting NAFA board member is drawn to admire a cheap mink coat that’s dyed canary yellow. The fur is matted and rough in spots, he notes, instead of supple and soft. And yet the jacket—and others like it, he soon sees—have already made it past the factory’s quality inspector. NAFA views this sort of quality level, as well as its low price point, as a temporary evil, at best, and is all too happy to leave the bottom of the market to its competitors. Salesgirls aren’t NAFA’s target customers—“unless they have a very, very rich boyfriend,” Benedetti later says. But the company also knows that master furriers almost never start out in the business with whole, high-end skins—they learn to cut and sew with floor scraps and work their way up. Many consumers also start out with cheap, simple fur garments, and trade up over time. And so NAFA has made a practice of getting in early with ambitious companies, and pulling them up along the way.

Hu’s company, established in 1993, is on that path. He says he’s less interested these days in garments made with sheep and rabbit than those made with mink, because that’s what Chinese customers want. Hu says he plans to grow that business by at least 20% annually. He’s willing to pay for his move upmarket, as well. Through a broker, Hu bought the top lot of mahogany-coloured mink at NAFA’s auction last February, for which he bid $150 per skin—a $115 premium over the average. (Top lots typically contain 50 skins.)

After this year’s auction, NAFA encouraged Hu to send his best garment, made with that top-lot mink, back to Toronto, where the auction house hired a model, hair and makeup artists and a fashion photographer; NAFA’s in-house designers then turned the photographs into posters and billboards, all to a standard that—as much of the display advertising around southern China attests—isn’t quite as readily achievable inside the country. The company also produced a DVD that documents the Toronto shoot—and which Hu plays, on a continuous loop, on a big-screen television in his store. This fall, Benedetti, along with Lumin Yao, a cheery York MBA graduate and Chinese national who is the marketing director in China, were also trying to figure out if they could stage a fashion show for Hu later in the season, at a new fur mall he opened this past September.

In Tongerpu, Shenyang and Harbin, all in the country’s northeast, there are more than a dozen fur malls—North American-style shopping centres, but where the only thing you can buy is fur. Tongerpu has six free-standing fur shopping malls, selling everything from fur gloves, jackets and hats to fur car-seat covers; there’s a seventh mall, bigger and better than all the rest, of course, now under construction and due to open next year. In Harbin, Zhang Mian, a 34-year-old furpreneur, opened the city’s first top-end fur mall last year; he also has a chain of 77 mink stores that spans the country, and plans to increase that number to 100 by year’s end. Zhang says he’s expecting sales to nearly double to 35,000 garments, from 20,000 pieces last year.

Even China’s subtropical southeastern coast has gone fur-crazy. One mall and manufacturing complex in Yuyao, a booming city south of Shanghai, has 300 stores jammed with racks of 48,000 RMB ($8,000) black mink bomber jackets and full-length, 200,000 RMB ($33,000) Canadian sable coats. The mall has a “fur interpretive centre,” chronicling the history of fur fashion in China. February in Yuyao can bring 28 C weather—by all rights, selling fur garments here should be as hard as hawking high-end ice cubes in Iqaluit. But as one mall owner in the region said, “Men in China all want to have a nice watch. Well, women want something nice, too, so they get their husbands to buy them a mink.” The Yuyao complex has nearly doubled its sales in each of its three years in business; its owner is now planning to build a second complex next door.

NAFA has made it its business to be there for the malls’ owners. One developer named Zhao Bin, scrambling early this fall to open his new mall in Shenyang in time for the busy season, had installed a 47-inch plasma television in the building’s lobby, where he planned to play DVDs of NAFA fashion shows from Milan and Hong Kong; NAFA posters filled lightboxes through five storeys of marbled halls, and outside, a three-storey-tall NAFA poster, showing a leggy blonde in a black mink wrap, was strung over a lightbox on the building’s side. Zhao said that he had even threatened some of his merchants who had put up cheap-looking advertising that he would replace it with NAFA’s art. NAFA helped Zhao when he first started out in the fur business, with a mall he opened in 1998, he says. “NAFA is the best,” he adds. “NAFA has always been very serious about its work.” When I suggest that NAFA, too, should be happy to have him displaying so many of its posters, Lumin Yao tells me to shut up, so as not to give Zhao any ideas.

NAFA’s educational efforts have become its central narrative in China: Work with us and we will help you succeed. Tina Jagros, of NAFA’s marketing arm, says the company’s China budget is still minuscule, considering the market’s size. NAFA will spend less than $1 million on its China operations this year, she says, quickly adding, “It’s not so much about throwing money around in China. The money is the easy part.” And yet the payoff has been enormous: Only Kopenhagen is bigger globally these days, and the gap appears to be shrinking.

Late last summer, the Beijing Fur Fair and China Tushu, a major Chinese crown corporation, named NAFA as the official sponsor of the country’s annual fur design competition, which was renamed “the NAFA Cup.”

What did NAFA do to earn the billing? “Not much,” Benedetti shrugged. China Tushu and the fur fair were putting up all the money, the advertising (including a new billboard headlined “Dawn of New Decade.” “Oh great,” Benedetti muttered when she first saw it, “they missed the ‘A’”), a gala banquet for a few thousand people and—not to be underestimated—the seal of approval from a powerful arm of the Chinese government. NAFA covered the soft costs, as Benedetti calls them: skins for the designers to use and prizes for the winners (including a week at the company’s Toronto design studio). And, of course, the fur fair would avail itself of Benedetti’s fashion show expertise.

Andrew Rowat

The use of Western marketing and advertising tactics is new to the Chinese luxury fur market

Can NAFA outlast the bubble? Travelling around the country, it’s common to meet retailers and manufacturers who rode market waves for leather, and then for cashmere, neither of which are as popular with Chinese consumers today as they once were. Politics and protectionism—China does have its own fur producers, even if their goods are usually of poor quality—can also upend a company’s China fortunes overnight.

The state of the greenback doesn’t help. Much of NAFA’s success is a function of exchange rates, says Herman Jansen, the managing director: It’s far cheaper for international buyers to shop with dollars, which NAFA uses, than euros.

The most worrisome development for the company, however, is Europe’s progress in raising short-napped mink. NAFA has built its brand in China largely around the superiority of its fur, after all—the uniqueness of the product has been the company’s greatest bulwark against Kopenhagen and the Finns. But European mink ranchers have since figured out the formula, and now they’ve begun producing short-napped mink that’s almost indistinguishable from the North American stuff, Jansen says, in every colour but the most sought-after ones: mahogany and black. Where Kopenhagan offered 500,000 North American-style mink skins four years ago, it sold four million this year—a number that’s just shy of North America’s total production—and the figure will only continue to grow.

In response, NAFA is pursuing an aggressive growth strategy, with the aim of enabling buyers to skip the European auctions altogether. In recent years, NAFA has tired to poach some of the best mink ranchers in eight European countries. The company sold 2.4 million European mink this year in Toronto, compared to three million from North America. “What we’d like to do is be a one-stop shop,” Jansen says.

Jansen, speaking somewhat cryptically, suggests that the Toronto company has made overtures to American Legend, as well. “Over time these two companies will merge,” he says. “Guaranteed. It only makes sense. Logically there should be just one North American auction house.” The difficulty, Jansen says, is that ALC, a co-operative, is ruled by its members. “People aren’t always logical.”

Russia, whenever its economy rebounds, “will be absolutely huge” as a consumer market, say Jansen and others in the company. The country is an important market not only for garments but also for trim and fur hats (the latter are especially attractive to furriers because they fall apart after a couple of seasons). Other possibilities? Northern India, another cold region in a hugely populous, fast-developing, bling-loving country. Iran is cold, also, Jansen says, adding, “We haven’t been there yet.”

And even though a few luxury business analysts have begun to worry that China’s major cities are starting to suffer luxury fatigue, Benedetti and Jansen contend that there’s room for plenty more growth in China, particularly in less-developed regions; the company’s agents are pushing into promising new areas, including Urumqi, a wealthy and—even by China’s standards—exceedingly fast-growing city in China’s northwest corner, near the Kazakhstani border.

But perhaps the most important step for the industry, psychically at least, is the few baby steps the fur trade has taken back into North America. Jansen, for one, argues that the industry has cleaned up its act on hunting and trapping methods; the company’s ranchers and trappers work ethically and humanely, he says. Fur promoters have seized on a new argument, too. Last winter, the Fur Council of Canada ran billboards in Canadian cities to announce that “Fur is Green.” “If we don’t use part of what nature produces, we will use petroleum-based synthetics or other materials that may damage the environment,” the campaign’s website elaborates. “We’ve got to get fur back onto shopping lists,” Jansen says.

Western glitz in Communist China: Winter fashions are on display at teh Harbin International Fur City Shopping centre

Back in Toronto, in a sun-filled studio on the top floor of a converted warehouse in Liberty Village, Lynda Jagros-May, the head of NAFA’s design studio (she is Tina Jagros’s sister), is working to build an international network of fur-using loyalists. Studio NAFA, as it’s called, is both a promotional tool and a hedge, of sorts: The company hosts fashion designers, students and fur technicians from established and developing markets and teaches them new ways to use its wares. While many of the students come from Hong Kong and China, the studio hosts groups from Turkey, Korea, Greece, Russia, Italy and North America as well.

On a Wednesday afternoon last summer, Jagros-May and Basil Kardasis, the company’s creative director (he teaches design at London’s Royal College of Art when he’s not in Toronto), are taking a class of Chinese designers through a stack of novel fur samples. In one of them, white and black mink has been cut into strips almost as narrow as fettuccine, then sewn back together into a herringbone pattern. Jagros-May shows samples in which the fur has been turned into checkerboards and waves. She shows strips of red fox and coyote sewn onto chiffon, with subtle plays on fur direction where the fabric reflects light back and forth like a swimming pool at noon.

Sophie Wu, a design manager for Ports International, tugs at one sample of a mink skin that’s been cut into a fine honeycomb pattern, so it stretches easily and readily slips back into its original shape; when Jagros-May notices her, Wu looks like she’s had an epiphany. “I really wanted to do this with our sweaters,” she says, “but I didn’t know how.”

“We’re going to show you,” Jagros-May says.

Near the end of her presentation, Jagros-May pulls out a sample made from silver fox; it looks full and decadent, like it should cost tens of thousands of dollars, but when she flips the fabric over, the students see that it’s made by sewing thin strips of fur, alternating with a thicker strip of leather: What little fox fur the technique uses is so long that it hides the leather filler in between the strips.

“This one takes me back to when I was 15, and my father was a furrier,” Jagros-May says. “I worked in the family store on weekends. At night I worked in a store that was called Fairweather.” She’s referring, of course, to the middle-brow Canadian clothing chain.

“These coats sold for—a jacket was $250, a fingertip-length was $500, and a full-length was just $750. They sold thousands of them,” she remembers. “Furriers like my father were so angry.”

“But the benefit was that an 18-year-old girl could afford a fur. It would fall apart, of course, but the beauty of it was that that girl would go on to buy a proper fur coat.”

“They’re seduced by it,” Kardasis interjects.

“Once it seduces you, it’s a thing you want to have,” Jagros-May says.

Or that is the hope, at least. It’s hard not to think, as the two of them work to sell those Chinese designers on a dream that has failed them at home, that the company—the entire industry—now has an opportunity in China to roll the clock back to its glory days. And maybe this time around, they’ll get it right.