Archive for anthropocentrism

[animallibpress] X To Whom it may Concern X, By Walter Bond

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





X To Whom it may Concern X
By Walter Bond



From Golden, Colorado jail
December 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Write Bond letters of prisoner support at:

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

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

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

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

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

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.

We Are Not Lions

Posted in veganism with tags , , on February 24, 2010 by carmen4thepets

In an attempt to defend meat-eating, there are those who say it’s perfectly natural for us to kill and consume other animals, and since we’re at the top of the food chain, everything and anything (or anyone) is on the menu.

These people often cite lions, tigers and bears (oh my) to back up their beliefs that humans are supposed to eat flesh, because other animals eat flesh. I can see where they’re coming from because I thought the very same thing when I was very young.

“Bears are omnivores and so are we,” I once told my then vegetarian sister. “Get the bears to stop eating meat and I’ll stop eating meat.” I thought I was so clever!

Lions kill antelopes, wolves kill deer and bears kill fish. They’re animals and we’re animals. So what’s the big deal? What’s the difference?

The difference is we are not lions, wolves or bears. We’re human beings: a different kind of animal; a MORAL animal. Lions and other carnivores don’t have morals, nor do they have a choice. If they don’t kill other animals they’ll die. They can’t survive on fruits, grains and vegetables. It’s the same for omnivores. But we can. We have other options.

Maybe once, a long time ago, we had to eat animals to survive (humans also ate other humans NOT so long ago) but we’ve learned so much since then. Today we work with lasers, communicate instantly with people on the other side of the planet and send robots to other planets. We’re in the 21st century now, not the Stone Age. We don’t need to eat animals anymore.

Some readers might say: “Yes, but we’re omnivores too!” Are we? I’m not so sure. Our physiology seems to indicate we are not, and the health implications (not to mention the environmental consequences) of consuming animal products suggest it would be wiser for all of us if we gave up meat.

And just because we can do something, like eating someone else’s flesh, doesn’t mean we should. Our bodies can also handle cocaine, heroine and crystal meth in moderate amounts, but I don’t know anyone promoting widespread psychoactive drug use.

So meat advocates can use predators to try and make their meat-eating arguments if they like but I’m more inspired by the gorillas, elephants and rhinoceroses. These amazing animals are just as strong as lions (if not stronger) and they’re all vegans. They manage to survive without killing and eating the bodies of other animals and they do just fine.

But I don’t object to predatory animals killing other animals (even though I feel bad for the victims) because, as I wrote earlier, they have no choice; it’s either do or die. Humans on the other hand do have a choice. And that’s what it all comes down to: a moral choice.

We know that killing, unless absolutely necessary, is wrong. We also know that causing unnecessary suffering to others is cruel. That’s why we have laws. If we didn’t, society couldn’t function. So we’re taught from an early age about right and wrong, do unto others, and so on for the betterment of society and the good of its members.

We’re praised when we perform acts of kindness and punished when we commit acts of violence. We’re also encouraged to work together to strengthen our communities, protect the weak and vulnerable, and help the sick and elderly. We don’t live by the law of the jungle because we don’t live in the jungle.

We can’t be part of a moral community, and reap the benefits of that community on one hand, and then justify killing and eating animals “because other animals do it.” There are no rules in nature; it’s survival of the fittest. But WE don’t live like that. If we did, there would be no law enforcement agencies, no hospitals, no charitable organizations, no social services, no mercy and no compassion.

If you want to reject civilized society and all its rules, living “red in claw and tooth” and killing what you eat go right ahead. But leave behind all the protections and benefits that come from living in a civilized society, including all those fancy gadgets. Wild animals don’t have cars, kerosene generators or high-powered rifles and neither should you.

Either we live like human beings, and accept all the rights and responsibilities that come with that, or we live like animals. It’s one or the other. We can’t have it both ways.


Averting the China Syndrome: Response to Our Critics and the Devotees of Fundamentalist Pacifism

Posted in animal liberation with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2009 by carmen4thepets

By Steve Best and Jason Miller


For all the political prisoners of the animal liberation movement, for everyone involved in militant direct action for nonhuman animals and the Earth, and for all the nonhuman animals themselves who suffer at the hands of human barbarity.

We can’t say we’re disappointed with the responses to our publication of Pacifism or Animals: Which Do You Love More? A Critique of Lee Hall, Friends of Animals, and the Franciombe Effect in the New Abolitionist Movement.” [1] We accomplished what we set out to do, and more.

We brought much-needed attention to the uncritical reception of Hall’s self-published polemic against militant direct action (MDA), Capers in the Courtyard.[2] We alerted an unknowing UK activist community to the slander and distortions of militant anti-vivisection campaigns in England and the United States. The ensuing fiery commentary on our article (as it appeared on blogs such as Thomas Paine’s Corner and Mary Martin’s Animal Person) helped to expose the propaganda and advertising tactics that Hall, Priscilla Feral, and Friends of Animals (FoA) use as masks for “objective” review of Hall’s regrettable book.

The discussion – featuring the bitter encomium and slew of ad hominem attacks by Feral’s husband, Robert Orabona, against former FoA lawyer, Derek Oatis (we wonder what überpacifist Lee Hall thinks of Orabona’s approach and language) – casts a bright light on the problematic nature of FoA itself and perhaps has some value for the historical record as it serves to document some of the inner conflicts of FoA, a long-established animal rights organization. An insider expose revealed that Feral and Orabona pay themselves a hefty salary (which we verified to be over $180,000 a year) from donor money intended to help animals rather than to boost their bank account. As we quickly discovered, Hall is not wanting either, pulling down $82,000 a year, about $15,000 more than her annual salary in 2005.[3]

Finally, we would like to think that our critique boosted the morale of US activists by strengthening the philosophical foundation for their efforts as they face persecution from the menacing corporate/state exploitation machine and continued fierce criticism from supposed animal rights advocates. We were delighted to have alerted UK activist Lynn Sawyer (comment #30) and thereby much of the UK MDA community about Hall’s book, which according to Lynn does little more than slander good activists and regurgitate police reports about incidents such as the alleged grave robbing of Gladys Hammond in order to pressure her family to stop breeding animals for vivisectors. We are eager to hear the UK activists’ thoughts on Halls’ book, and we hope this sparks vigorous debate over philosophy and tactics and further exposes the dogmatic, misinformed, hostile, and airy utopianism of her approach, which we attempt to demonstrate here.

We cannot possibly address all the critiques of our position or treat them here in any exhaustive fashion; we will simply correct the many misconceptions of our viewpoint and underscore the crucial aspects of our critique that were conveniently ignored by nearly every respondent, yet form the crux of the entire debate. We warn the reader that this is a long essay, but we hope it is one worthy of reading and debate. Our key response points concern: (1) the meaning of concepts such as “violence” and “war”; (2) the legitimacy and efficacy of sabotage tactics and violence; (3) the dogmatic and essentialist nature of what we call “fundamentalist pacifism,” which is a dominant ideology of the US animal advocacy movement and is aggressively pushed by Gary Francione and Lee Hall; (4) the manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome in extreme pacifists like Hall and Feral; and (5) the importance of an alternative philosophical and political outlook to fundamentalist pacifism, namely: a militant abolitionism informed by a pluralist, contextualist, and pragmatist outlook and method.

The Fallacies of Fundamentalist Pacifism

To begin, whereas some critics objected to equating the positions of Hall, Feral, and Francione, we nowhere stated they formed a coherent group, although the differences between them seem negligible. We were unaware, but not surprised to learn, of the break between Francione and Friends of Animals, prompted by what some called “petty” squabbles of a nature that are inevitable in a war of position among absolutists and dogmatists, whether in the realm of religion or animal advocacy. We assume the direction of philosophical influence was Francione on Hall and FoA, rather than the other way around. Francione and Hall are both trained lawyers who espouse an extreme form of pacifism and promote a single-issue politics (despite their occasional remarks about capitalism and commonalities of oppression) anchored exclusively in vegan education.

Yet while Lee Hall has made it a central project to denigrate militant direct action and form alliances with the speciesist group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) because they share her antipathy toward “violent extremists” in the animal liberation movement, Francione has focused his attack on welfarists, avoiding Hall’s obsessive hostility toward the MDA community as well as affiliation with the likes of SPLC.[4] Both embrace pacifist philosophies, but Hall is the most outspoken proponent and she pushes the ahimsa ethic of Buddhism, Gandhi, King, vegan founder Donald Watson, Francione, and others to a divisive and injurious extreme.

A key intent of the essay was not to speculate on the relationship between Francione and Hall and FoA, but rather to describe what we call the “Franciombe effect” among animal rights activists and abolitionists throughout the world and in many languages. In “Pacifism or Animals: Which Do You Love More?,” we sought to highlight a problematic phenomenon that few have identified: the uncritical embrace of a dogmatic pacifist, legalist, and single-issue party line amongst abolitionists who champion and parrot Francione’s positions as if they were sacred scriptures. The Franciombe effect is evident in the slew of abolitionist forums and blogs in numerous languages, many of which are clones of one another, and all waiting for more pearls of wisdom from their revered mentor’s prolific output of books, articles, blog essays, and interviews.

Lest we appear as ingrates, we happily doff our hats to Francione for his substantive contributions to animal rights and his incisive critiques of welfarist practices rife throughout an “oppositional” movement on the verge of total co-optation, and as such pave the way to advancing an uncompromising abolitionist outlook. After Tom Regan’s pioneering work in the 1980s, the most important being the 1983 publication of his seminal work and riposte to Peter Singer, The Case for Animal Rights, Francione continued blazing trails in the 1990s with landmark works such as Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement (1996). Francione became the foremost theorist to challenge the mushrooming utilitarianism and welfarism in the animal advocacy movement, such as led to the blatant collaborationism of PETA and HSUS – the world’s two largest animal advocacy organizations – with the industries they claim to oppose. As Francione and his followers cogently show, the cooptation of animal rights is evident in HSUS’ “humane meat” and “free range” eggs campaigns and in PETA’s awards to Temple Grandin — the kind killer, merciful murderer, and benevolent butcher who designs efficient massacre technologies for slaughterhouses.

Whether they acknowledge it or not, Hall and Feral are much in Francione’s debt in their rights/abolitionist perspectives and they share his fundamentalist pacifism. We ourselves are vegans and abolitionists who have profited much from reading Francione and who share many of his concerns. But we espouse a markedly different philosophy, politics, and tactics, and we wish to convey that Francione and Hall’s’ positions are problematic – in fact, they are dead-ends – and that there are other and better ways of articulating animal rights and abolitionist theory and practice.

We reject essentialist outlooks such as Hall’s that try to rigidly fix the meaning of veganism and animal rights (see below). We emphasize that there are many different possible types of abolitionism, and we seek a richer form than that formulated by Francione and accepted by his followers. Our approach is contextualist, pluralist, and pragmatist, and much more in tune with the nineteenth century US abolitionist movement that inspires the contemporary struggle for animal liberation and that like virtually all other modern social movements for rights, democracy, justice, and liberation had a pluralist character and influential militant component.

Note we are not opposing “activism” to pacifism, as if nonviolence meant do nothing, for of course Gandhi and King advocated intense and dynamic action against pernicious forces such as imperialism and racism. Nor are we critically juxtaposing MDA to veganism, as if the latter were not in itself a powerful form of direct action. Rather, we are contrasting two different tactical philosophies and forms of direct action: pacifism works within the law, is single-issue focused, and condemns economic sabotage as “violent”; an alternative supports illegal actions such as raids, liberations, and property destruction, and promotes a multi-dimensional, multi-racial, global anti-capitalist alliance politics.[5]

Although some may argue that our critique is divisive and that we should direct critical attention solely to animal exploiters, and ignore problematic philosophies and tactics in the movement, we think the pacifist and abolitionist alternative offered by Francione and Hall is as problematic as HSUS and PETA visions and an important critical task for today is formulating an alternative between welfarism and pacifist abolitionism. The force of Francione’s positions and Hall’s pacifist sweet talk and critiques of MDA have had a seductive effect far and wide, and thus these theorists have not received the sharp critical analysis their positions demand.

Hall’s self-published anti-animal rights terrorist manifesto, Capers in the Courtyard, has been hailed by some as “the best book on animal rights.” We find this judgment to be disconcerting given the book’s grave flaws and its embrace of a pacifist doctrine so extreme that it sympathizes more with animal exploiters than with animal liberators. Most of the book, in fact, is one long diatribe against the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC), and other oppositional forces that attack exploiters through high-pressure tactics, threats, harassment, economic sabotage, and illegal raids and liberations.

One key reason for the unwarranted praise of Hall’s book seems to be that FoA mobilizes friends, allies, and paid staff to cloyingly extol it on and in animal advocacy forums, chat sites, and list-serves. This was exposed in Dustin Rhodes’ amateurish attempt in his commentary to our essay on TPC (see #16) to disguise the fact that he is an FoA employee and to pose incognito as a discriminating and objective reader of philosophical theory. But FoA propaganda and smoke and mirrors alone don’t explain the Hall phenomenon. Hall’s rigid, simplistic, feel-good outlook appeals to the legions who crave absolute truths, who carve up the world into black-and-white boxes, and who want to believe that the change they seek for animals will come far more easily than in fact is possible, such that they never have to question their own status and privileges as (typically) white Western consumers.

Our position contradicts the fundamentalist pacifism not only of Francione, Hall, and their followers but the vast majority of the US (and no doubt Canadian and European) animal advocacy movement. Our position is, first, modest in the sense of striving for the virtue of “intellectual honesty” championed by nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Unlike Hall and her acolytes, we don’t think we possess “the truth” or indubitable knowledge of how animal liberation ought best to proceed. Part of intellectual honesty is giving up the pretence to knowledge one can’t have, such as when pacifists say a priori that the public will be alienated by direct action tactics, as if they had done scientific polling or historical research rather than armchair pontificating and dogmatic deductions from problematic axioms and assumptions. We can see the problem in Francione, for instance, who, voicing a standard objection to MDA, writes: “As a practical matter, it is not clear to me what those who support violence hope to achieve …They certainly are not causing the public to become more sympathetic to the plight of nonhuman animals. If anything, the contrary is true and these actions have a most negative effect in terms of public perception.”[6] How does Francione know this? Is he speaking of the situation in the UK (with a public arguably more sympathetic to the ALF than the US public) as well as the US and elsewhere? Francione draws conclusions that flatter his own pacifist outlook, but have no empirical basis, as we do not see extensive and scientifically rigorous polls cited to support such a sweeping conclusion (see the “Dialectical and Contextual Concept of Violence” section below).

Second, we are pluralist in the sense that we embrace any and all tactics that advance animal liberation and social progress in general. While we agree with Francione and Hall that welfare campaigns ultimately set the animal advocacy movement back, we can just as easily embrace vegan education as we can liberation and agitation; indeed, all of our own work is through education (writing, teaching, publishing and speaking) and our everyday activism (organizing vegan dinners, writing letters, protesting, and so on) is not dissimilar to what Francione, Hall, and animal rights (vs. welfare) advocates do.

Third, we adopt a contextualist approach in rejecting the a priori and universal application of general principles and tactics without considering each situation on its own terms. Tired platitudes such as “violence only breeds violence” and “the ends don’t justify the means” are falsehoods oblivious to the dynamics of history and social change and naive about the possibilities of winning hearts and minds to animal liberation. Contextualism is antithetical to a prior thinking, essentialist mandates, and universalistic claims.

Fourth, we are pragmatist in our commitment to results over dogmas, rules, traditions, and teachings, such as tiredly invoking the verses of Gandhi and King. Theory of course is necessary for intelligent praxis, but theory ought to be flexible and subject to re-evaluation if the results of practice demonstrate it to be faulty, inadequate, impractical or obsolete given changes in objective social conditions. One change we emphasized in our initial article, and which we specify in greater detail below, is the extreme and rapidly worsening planetary ecocrisis, fueled in large part by an alarming spike in “meat” consumption in densely populated countries such as China and India. These new conditions render the Francione-Hall line of changing the world One Plate at a Time ludicrous and suicidal, a profound betrayal to humans, other animals, and to the surrounding natural world.

To our dismay and befuddlement, Francione, Hall and their faithful flock mostly – or in many cases completely — ignore the ridiculously tiny rises in veganism contrasted to the staggering surge in flesh consumption, as well as the ecocrisis itself, making their position completely untenable and irrelevant to current conditions of social and ecological reality. These changing conditions strongly suggest that the glacial and individualist strategies for change Francione-Hall urge are completely inadequate to address current social and ecological breakdown and crisis. The crisis of global capitalism cannot be touched by reforms or single-issue politics; it demands radical and systemic strategies that involve not individual spiritual enlightenment as much as social movements and collective struggles.

Our position is not that sabotage and liberation tactics alone are themselves adequate to this task, as they are stop-gap measures undertaken by a few; rather we advocate positive concepts of social revolution that unfold through the radical democratization of society. For now, however, the sabotage tactics of the ALF and ELF are important if for no other reason than to demonstrate resistance to capitalist omnicide is possible, that the flame of rebellious action (the praxis that must emerge from abstract theorizing) has not been completely snuffed out. But the value of underground tactics exceeds the symbolic to transform material realities, for liberationists are often effective in slowing the destruction of nature and life, if not in many cases stopping it altogether. The corporate-state complex fears them for a reason; it elevates them to the top terrorist threats for a reason; it levels prison terms longer than rapists and murderers get for a reason: they pose a real, imminent, and serious danger to their operations and profits.

Essentialism and the Breeding of Dogmas

“The test for speciesism is simple: If the victims were human, would you be speaking and acting as you are? If not, don’t speak and act that way when the victims are nonhuman.” Joan Dunayer

We reject Hall’s attempt to freeze, rigidify, and essentialize the meaning of animal rights such that the concept takes on the deceptive appearance of a natural or divine law, when in fact Hall’s definition is arbitrary, subjective, and reflects her extreme non-violent biases. Like any complex concept such as “freedom,” “democracy,” and “terrorism,” the meaning of “animal rights” is open, indeterminate opaque, and contested. It is the sign of a doctrinaire, absolutist, and fundamentalist mindset to reify such indeterminacy as closed, transparent, and unambiguous.

Fortuitously, an extreme example of this metaphysical/theological outlook is provided by Dave Shishkoff in his reply (#12) to our essay. Upon reading Shishkoff’s missive we were surprised to learn – despite years of tenacious commitment — that we are not vegans at all![7] Although we ourselves abstain from all animal-derived products for principled ethical, health, and environmental reasons, Shishkoff informs us that we are mere imposters because we do not accept the Word of Donald Watson and his nonviolent philosophy. If we are not vegans then we must be…vegetarians? Or have we been demoted further to …flexitarians? Have we been cast into the ice caves of ontological indeterminacy or dropped into the fiery pit of identity meltdown? No, it not our inconsistencies but the power pathologies of dogmatic pacifists who raise arbitrariness to a high-art mobilized around the signifiers of Stalinist semantics.

Even though in the 1940s he pioneered the moral and dietary outlook of veganism in critical contrast to the hypocritical and half-way measures of vegetarianism, neither Watson nor Shishkoff own the concept of veganism. Beyond a principled avoidance of animal-derived products, the meaning of veganism is open and amenable to various tactical outlooks, whether that of Francione and Hall or of the Animal Liberation Front (which in fact makes veganism and nonviolence a central part of its credo). Veganism is a moral philosophy not a tactical philosophy, and there is no Platonic realm or natural law that conjoins veganism to nonviolent actions in defense of animals. Certainly veganism is a noble zeitgeist, categorical imperative, and mode of life focused on nonviolence as a personal and societal goal, but this does not negate the fact that nonviolence often perpetuates violence and thus “violent” means in some cases are necessary to achieve nonviolent ends. This is a paradox of social action, not Orwellian doublespeak.

It is in this context that we can understand Nelson Mandela’s tried-and-tested insight that“Non-violence is not a moral principle but a strategy. And there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.”[8] Nazism provides perhaps the most blatant example of a malevolent force against which non-violence was an ineffective weapon, and if the idealized commitment to nonviolence is a hindrance to overcoming the stark realities of institutionalized violence, then “moral goodness” is indeed an ineffective weapon. And here we fully agree with the no-nonsense realism of Malcolm X, who clarified his outlook thus: “It doesn’t mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time, I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence.”[9]

Vegan ethics are indeed about promoting peaceful relations toward nonhuman animals, and ultimately toward fellow humans and the Earth itself, but a pacifist essentialization of the meaning of veganism and animal rights begs the pressing question: how can employing solely pacifist tactics transform an insane, violent, and cruelly exploitative social structure (speciesist capitalism) into a sane, peaceful, mutualistic, and sustainable way of life? The question is not, as pacifists programmatically say, “Do the ends justify the means?” but rather how can the means possibly bring about the ends?” How, in other words, can Francione’s and Hall’s individualist strategy of changing the world “one person” and one plate at a time revolutionize systemic conditions of oppression?

Shishkoff’s crude appeal to authority might just as well have conjured up a Biblical psalm as the discourse of Donald Watson. Whereas Watson had expertise in the area of diet and ethics, he did not necessarily have it in tactics; his first word in vegan philosophy is hardly the last. Crucially, our contextualist approach emphasizes the fact that Watson, although he lived until 2005, developed his concept of veganism in another era –before corporate globalization, before the planetary expansion of the “meat” industry, before the sixth great extinction crisis, before global warming, and before systemic ecological crisis, and his philosophy and tactics never reflected these emergency conditions or adjusted in light of an entirely new world epoch – that of global warming and the 65 million year long transition to the newest stage of species extinction in the history of this planet.

Shishkoff reaches for a classic appeal to authority fallacy, one that illuminates the dogmatic mindset that characterizes the Franciombe phenomenon. We could just as easily, from an ALF standpoint, declare ex cathedra that a “true” vegan not only eschews animal-derived products, but also raids laboratories and sabotages exploiters’ property. We could just as well say to Shishkoff: “No, you are not a `true,’ `real,’ or `authentic’ vegan, and in fact, nor is your hero, Donald Watson; only the ALF and those who support them are bona fide, card carrying vegans.” Clearly, this would be absurd and authoritarian, but no less so that Shishkoff’s essentialized definition of veganism and Hall’s metaphysical concept of animal rights.

A Dialectical and Contextual Concept of Violence

“A small group of people have succeeded where Karl Marx, the Red Brigade and the Baader-Meinhof Gang all failed.” The Financial Times on the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign, April 2003.

“Although violence is repugnant, there do seem to be times — primarily after all else has been tried — that it might be immoral not to resort to its use. This is why I can’t embrace ahimsa.” Rick Bogle

One wide misconception of our position is that we are somehow glorifying, romanticizing, or privileging violence and that we ourselves are physically violent people who contradict the ultimate goals of “real” vegans and “true” animal rights activists who seek to build on the high road to peaceful One Plate at a Time change. In fact, fear and paranoia seem to have overtaken Priscilla Feral’s mind, prompting her to comment on our original piece on Thomas Paine’s Corner (TPC) with this surprisingly sophomoric admonition to Best: “Buzz off, scary guy.” Feral’s husband, Robert Orabona, is not to be outdone in the ad hominem department. He veers far from the topic of our essay to sling mud and insults at Oatis (who tries to take the high road and keep the discussion on topic), engaging in a sustained personal attack that culminates with this bon mot: “If you want to save money on your suits, try shopping in the Boys Department” (# 58). We are certain such language would not receive the Lee Hall Seal of Approval, for it falls short of her pacifist ideals (inspired by Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King) that demand treating others with love and respect (including animal exploiters!), as opposed to heaping on them a bilious stream of abuse.

Numerous people misunderstood our position on violence, somewhat understandably given our brevity and tacit assumptions in a general polemic, though Best has spoken and written on the issue in many interviews, essays and books.[10] Yet few pacifists seem to read material critical of their viewpoint and outside their box. Non-pacifist is not pro-violence, it is just realist, pluralist, contextualist, and pragmatic. As non-pacifists, we do not champion violence as a goal, a good, or end in itself.

We too seek a peaceful society, especially in the way humans treat other animals. Yet, we do not let ideals blind us to realities, and from our methodological positions, we also believe in (1) the need for, (2) the legitimacy of, and (3) strategic value of illegal actions, sabotage, coercive tactics, and sometimes “violence” as in the use of physical force with intent to cause bodily harm (e.g., as armed Rwandan soldiers protect elephants against poachers).

We don’t absolutely commit to pacifism or non-pacifism in the abstract, but rather apply what seems the best strategy for a given political situation. As contextualists, pluralists, and pragmatists, we look to the context to understand what is violent or nonviolent, we advance a number of resistance strategies, and for the animals’ sake, and we take principles that work in action over flowery ideals and fancy lounge chair philosophies any day. A non-pacifist is someone who sometimes allows the need and value for violence, as do we. We assert as a general principle that violence is the last, not the first, resort for social change.

Whereas advocates of direct action such as Paul Watson, Rod Coronado, and Kevin Jonas are examples of MDA supporters who use inclusive approaches that acknowledge the validity of different tactics in different situations, critics of direct action wield exclusive approaches that deny the need for and validity of a plurality of tactics — legal and illegal, underground and aboveground. If it is to succeed, the animal advocacy movement must embrace a multidimensional and contextualist model of change rooted in the insight that different situations require different and perhaps multiple types of tactics deployed simultaneously. Eschewing dogma and pre-packaged answers, this approach asks: what tactic or combination of tactics is appropriate to a specific situation? It is obvious that not all violence is justified, but it is equally obvious that not all violence is unjustified. Self-defense is one example where it is acceptable and prudent to use force against another person if necessary.

Like fundamentalist pacifists, we hope for a non-violent world achieved through non-violent means. We also grant the crucial role of vegan education and outreach and thus can acknowledge these positive aspects of the work of Hall, FoA, and Francione. Let’s face facts: we live in an advanced military-capitalist-industrialist system of power predicated on the taking and killing of all resources and life. The system’s omnicidal roots trace back ten thousands years, it is now a dying empire imploding in itself, and power and privilege will be defended at any cost.

We believe that a confrontation with the corporate-state complex is inevitable, but our vision is not a shoot-out with the FBI, SWAT teams, and sharpshooters, but rather waging a two-fold war, one belowground (such as the ALF or the Justice Department) and one aboveground, with one approach complimenting the other. To give just two examples of this effective interplay, the ALF was a key contributing force, along with mainstream groups such as In Defense of Animals, in the 2002 closing of the notorious Coulston chimpanzee “research” center in Alamogordo, New Mexico. In 2003, moreover, aboveground groups were able to exploit the media attention brought to the foie gras industry resulting from ALF attacks on French chefs promoting it and using that newly opened space to protest and educate about the horrible confinement and force-feeding method used to produce this “delicacy.”[11]

Only the most doctrinaire and conceptually shuttered individuals such as Hall can deny that MDA tactics have been incredibly important and effective in the struggle for animal liberation, and will always play a pivotal role. Emerging in England in the mid-1970s, the ALF has shut down countless exploiters and liberated countless thousands of animals that otherwise were doomed to a slow and painful demise. SHAC arose in England in 1999, evolving from a pre-history of amazingly successful direct action campaigns designed to close down animal breeders and to disrupt the supply chain to the pharmaceutical industries.[12] In rapid succession, from 1996-1999, militant activists and diverse communities of people in England closed down Consort Beagle breeders, Hillgrove Cat Farm, and Shamrock Primate Farm. Once HLS was exposed for particularly heinous forms of animal torture, and it became clear the government had no intention of enforcing its own welfare laws, SHAC founders Greg Avery, Heather Nicholson, and Natasha Dellemagne Avery went into action.

These brilliant activists formed SHAC with the novel intent to target one major drug and chemical testing company, Huntington Life Sciences (HLS). The goal was to rock the foundations of the entire pharmaceutical industry by bringing down a giant, chasing HLS it to all corners of the world with an unprecedented global campaign. And true to their militant spirit and intent, SHAC has had a devastating effect on HLS. They drove them to incorporate in the US so that they could hide the identity of their shareholders and lenders, caused them to be delisted from both the New York and London Stock Exchanges, and have forced numerous lenders, customers, and vendors to cease doing business with HLS. On the verge of collapse from such effective new tactics, HLS would have folded altogether if not for financial bailouts from both the UK and US, and it continues to stagger due to persistent SHAC attacks, even while the founders and other leading members of SHAC have been imprisoned across the Atlantic and here at home. SHAC paid a price, true, but so did HLS, and the war continues. SHAC’s innovative tactics proved so successful that other political groups have adopted them for their cause.[13]

With an ignorance only matched by her arrogance, Hall contemptuously dismisses the SHAC campaign as the hoodlum nonsense of maladjusted youth — a grotesque and ageist stereotype of a large army of militants quite diverse in age and background. In fact SHAC is one of the most intelligent, shrewd, and cunning campaigns ever developed in any social movement. Striking a primary target by attacking secondary and supporting companies, innovative use of websites and the Internet to coordinate campaigns, novel types of pressure tactics such as home demos and public shaming, chasing HLS all the way from England to the NYSE and beyond are just some of the elements that characterize the SHAC campaign as a brilliant tactical breakthrough and potential historic watershed in the struggle for human, nonhuman animal, and Earth liberation.[14]

Written from her US-Eurocentric, middle class, bourgeois, legalist perspective, Hall’s treatise does a tremendous disservice to the dedicated young vegan anarchists who do support or engage in direct action, whether through the ALF, the ELF, SHAC, or some other entity. Disconnected as she obviously is from radical anti-capitalist anarchists, many of whom have embraced veganism and animal liberation, Hall devoted much of Capers to caricaturizing them as uneducated social malcontents looking for ways relieve their ennui and anger, being nothing but lost souls seeking to forge an identity through their militant actions. To better understand how gross a distortion this is, consider an excerpt from an essay written by NYCVeganPunk, a member of a sub-culture Hall’s ridiculous stereotype blithely dismisses:

The rights of animals were brought to the forefront of punk rock thought by European anarcho-punk bands in the early 1980’s. Through their lyrics and outspoken support of direct action campaigns to sabotage foxhunts and end vivisection, these bands issued a “call to arms” for would-be activists and elevated punk beyond the nihilism and shock value of its early history. Bands like the Subhumans, Discharge, Icons of Filth, Riot/Clone, Anti-Sect and many, many others began to explore the possibilities of music as more than just entertainment but as a powerful form of communication. As these bands began to hone their skills, they developed a more articulate political criticism and rejection of the dominant culture of animal cruelty….. Politically and socially conscious punk bands began addressing a range of socially relevant issues, including animal rights. Punks began to organize animal rights benefit shows, released animal rights themed record compilations and published fanzines that tackled the issue as well. Today, in almost every major city in the world, many involved in the punk sub-culture are working hard to further the cause of animals. [15]

Vegan education is not going to bring down powerful corporate exploiters alone; that formidable task also requires MDA tactics and larger social objectives as well. As a SHAC proponent states:

The really powerful tool we have as activists is that they never know what we will do next, and that if we all act in a united cohesive way we can take out parts of their infrastructure that they cannot afford to lose. It basically boils down to three things:

1. Putting the fear of God into them.
2. Costing them financially.
3. Dragging their name through the dirt.

Don’t waste your time appealing to their better nature – it doesn’t exist among the people who really matter in a company. What you appeal to is how much money you are going to cost them, how you are going to destroy their morale and how they are never going to know when and where you will turn up next with a new, disruptive and embarrassing tactic they can do nothing about. Always changing tactics and hitting them at different points keeps them confused and disoriented so they cannot fight back properly.[16]

We do not advocate violence as a tactic so much as we argue that there are strong justifications for the use of violence, such as in a “just war,” to intervene on behalf of genocide victims, or in self-defense. And we advance the concept of “extensional self-defense” to say that humans can be legitimate proxy agents for animals who rarely can defend themselves against their tormentors. For those shocked by our frankness, we are not saying anything more than what mainstream animal rights philosopher Tom Regan says in his essay, “How to Justify Violence,” in which he specifies conditions in which violence is a legitimate tactic in the struggle for rights and justice.[17] Just as violence is not always right, so it is not always wrong. Only from a fundamentalist pacifist standpoint, or a position of complete historical ignorance, can one deny cases where violence has worked on behalf of social change and instances in which violence is legitimate and necessary. After all, if not for the American Revolution and the colonists’ war of independence from an oppressor, Shishkoff (were he living in the US rather than Canada) might be wearing a fancy white wig, britches, and a red coat, while paying respects to the King and Queen.

To paraphrase John Lennon, all we are saying is give pluralism and contextualism a chance. And our position goes far beyond defending the rear-guard actions of sabotage. As effective as they are in many cases, obviously these tactics alone cannot bring down speciesist capitalism, but nor can tactics that rely on state legislation and reforms (e.g., HSUS) and vegan education (e.g., Francione and Hall). Everyone has missed the key point that we are not promoting one tactic over another within a narrow field of animal advocacy politics; rather we are conceptualizing large-scale, systemic social change that includes strategic alliances amongst many social justice, anti-capitalist groups – quite unlike Karen Dawn’s vision of an apolitical, non-partisan, cater-to-all, and maximize-benefits-for-book sales approach to animal advocacy.[18]

So far from advocating violence and destruction, we are championing the positive norms of peace, equality, sustainability, and ultimately social revolution to abolish both the conceptual and institutional roots of hierarchy, domination, and exploitation. We need every arrow in our quiver to defeat speciesism and exploitation, very much including both nonviolent resistance and MDA, each applied in the situations where they are most effective. Like MDA itself, veganism is a necessary but surely not a sufficient condition of revolutionary personal and institutional change.

One cannot judge the most efficacious tactics through the application of a general principle; one needs to make such evaluations through analysis of specific situations. In some cases (e.g., banning circuses and rodeos from one’s home town or city) education, gentle pressure, protest, or legislative change may be the best tactics, whereas in other cases (e.g., rescuing laboratory or factory “farm” victims) liberation and/or sabotage may be the right and only approach. Whether or not the tactic would be strategically sound and not incur a massive blowback from the state and alienation of public support, violent resistance against animal exploiters in (extensional) self-defense of animals is defensible on strong grounds.

To be absolutely clear: We are not claiming that all MDA is always warranted, tactically sound, or done intelligently – such blanket pronouncements violate our contextualist approach. Nor are we recklessly advocating violence and a “tear the house down” approach. We certainly agree with Mary Martin’s recommendation on her Animal People blog discussion of our essay that “readers consider both sides of the militant direct action (MDA) debate before jumping in as an ardent fan of either side.”[19] Rather we advocate careful scrutiny of each situation and thinking not only of actions but also consequences. A contextualist position tends to disarm pacifist dogmas and open up the vistas of tactical thinking, and not only in US, European, or Western contexts, but also globally.[20]

Ultimately, we assert that to win this war — or to put it another way, to stop this ongoing Holocaust and genocide against nonhuman animals — we have no choice but to employ every means at our disposal, including militant direct action and violence. While the formidable power of the enemy, the corporate-state-military complex, dictates that we engage them using asymmetrical tactics with violence as a last resort, we can ill afford to forbid ourselves from employing militant actions against an entity predicated on institutionalized violence and one that, like a sociopathic giant wielding a razor-sharp hatchet, slaughters nonhuman animal after nonhuman animal in a horrifyingly efficient assembly-line fashion. As for dogmatic pacifism, were Gandhi alive today and hunger striking against the flesh industry, they’d probably laugh and tell him to eat “Beef! It’s what’s for dinner!”

The Pipedream of Vegan Revolution

“If we say rational debate cannot carry the day, or that the violent acts of exploiters necessitate response in kind, we mock a movement’s core principle, we deride its integrity.” Lee Hall Capers in the Churchyard.

“Tactics based solely on morality can only succeed when you are dealing with people who are moral or a system that is moral.” Malcolm X

The vast network of Francione followers are digitally linked and multiplying throughout the Internet and blogosphere. There are definite positive advantages to his growing influence given the abysmal state of the US “animal rights” movement, mired in welfarism, collaborationism, and corporate models of development, but the disadvantages to the pacifist and liberal-individualist aspects of Francione’s (and Hall’s) approach are serious. Francione, Hall, and mainstream vegan proponents make a fair point that it is premature for any final judgments on the efficacy of veganism and nonviolent civil disobedience because neither tactic has been tried at any serious level given the reformist, welfarist, and collaborationist approaches that dominate the US animal advocacy movement.[21]

So we are not saying that vegan education and nonviolent tactics have failed or should not be developed to their maximal potential. We argue, in fact, that Francione and Hall do not even promote their own tactics enough, given their blatant failure to reach out to communities of the poor, working class, marginalized, disenfranchised, people of color, and other parts of the world, especially China and India (see below). In this respect, we are urging them to develop their positions more, not less, to be consistent, non-elitist, and far more effective. But these should not be the only approaches to receive the abolitionist seal of approval and be fully utilized in the struggle against a universal and deeply entrenched human supremacism.

Whereas Hall peddles the narcotic of patience in order to inch down the road of Love, singing kumbaya arm-in-arm with our oppressors, as happy shiny people with faith in the Peaceable Vegan Kingdom, we are asking everyone to get real, to wake up, to get angry, and to understand that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. The dire emergency of the global ecological crisis means that slow and purist methods of change are not going to cut it. And we are saying that in their formulation veganism has become a religion, a dogma, and a simplistic and mechanistic formula for change.

Francione and his acolytes don’t reject direct action, they define it exclusively in terms of veganism; their focus is on veganism as a necessary and sufficient condition of animal and social liberation. Veganism is not only a form of direct action, it is privileged as the form, and what we term militant direct action is ruled out from the start. Broadly understood, veganism is arguably the single most powerful and effective thing an individual can do to lighten their ecological footprint and promote positive change on both social and environmental levels. But Francione takes a sound argument to untenable extremes by decontextualizing veganism from its larger social context and reducing it to a mechanistic logic. He makes grandiose claims about the efficacy of nonviolent vegan direct action as a panacea and technofix for the social-environmental crisis threatening the entire globe. Francione advances an evangelic, Salvationist, determinist vision that the vegan revolution will spread worldwide and will revolutionize human society.[22]

In a stunning series of non sequitor and determinist fallacies, he assumes not only that (1) the vegan revolution is unstoppable, but also that (2) it will trigger the abolition of other forms of exploitation, and, by implication, it will (3) undermine other forms of oppression and revolutionize society as a whole. One can identify this type of thinking clearly in one of Francione’s faithful followers, Jeff Perz, who writes intelligent commentary on the violence/pacifism debate but tends to erase the nuances of his analysis in favor of totalizing generalizations and mechanistic thinking. “As a result of our efforts in abolitionist vegan education,” Perz writes, “fewer and fewer non-human animals will be eaten, killed or otherwise harmed. This will lead to the eventual abolition of all non-human animal exploitation. Exclusive non-violent animal rights activism is ethical, realistic and absolutely necessary to create the world we are seeking. Let’s do it!”[23]

Perz assumes that if one form of exploitation (food production) is abolished, all others (such as vivisection) will follow, like falling dominoes, and that once speciesism vanishes so will follow all other forms of prejudice, hierarchy, and domination. Defying the complexity of history and social change, Francione reverts to single-issue reductionism and clumsily attempts to shift the burden of explanation, writing: “Anyone who says that vegan education is ‘not enough’ [i.e., a sufficient condition of change] must have a crystal ball. There has never been a movement that has been directed at clear, unequivocal vegan education. Let’s try that first, and then we will be in a better position to judge its efficacy…my experience is that it is the most efficient and cost-effective way of proceeding.”[24]

What Francione, Hall, and others fail to acknowledge, at least in general pronouncements such as these, is the fact that practices such as flesh consumption and vivisection, while part of the same fabric of speciesism, do not fall together in logical sequence, as society may decide (however erroneously) that eating animals is unnecessary but experimenting on them is vital.[25] Needless to say, the connections among veganism, animal liberation, and progressive social and environmental change are even more tenuous, complex, and problematic.[26]

Similarly, James Crump commented (#45) on “Pacifism or Animals” by stating, “Once we have recruited all those who are amenable to vegan education, then we can worry about the hardcore speciesists.” Apparently, Crump is looking to base his revolution on the fringes of the fringe, and the strategy is simple and breathtaking: first take the easy marks, then go for — or rather worry about — the hardcore programmed! Crump seems to know a law of history we don’t, one that is linear and progressive, allowing you first to persuade the pliable and then conquer the most firmly entrenched opposition. Never mind the fact that billions of people have identities, traditions, lifestyles, and livelihoods heavily invested in speciesism and exploitation. Somehow, according to Crump’s logic, the Force of Reason will win them over and reach their true inner goodness and moral soul. Here we see a stellar example of the Socratic-Enlightenment metaphysics running through the Panglossian paths of abolitionist veganism.

Thus, in Francione, Hall, Crump, and countless others, there is a presumption that vegan revolution – in its fullest sense, including a moral gestalt shift away from anthropomorphism and speciesism – will somehow trigger the social revolution that will topple global capitalism, the overarching socioeconomic structure that embodies and enables myriad hierarchies and exploitations. It would seem that fundamentalist pacifists and Procrustean vegans are the ones who believe they possess Francione’s “crystal ball,” as they move in the faith that vegan education mainly or alone will revolutionize humanity , transforming Homo sapiens – whose history began with the slaughter of the Neanderthals in Europe and proceeded to systemic global genocide and destruction — into a peaceful, loving, cooperative, and non-exploitative species living in harmony with itself, other species, and the Earth as a whole.

Dan Cudahy completely missed the point of our critique and failed to acknowledge, as did everyone else, the full extent of our positive and systemic vision of social transformation. As he writes:

Best misrepresents Francione a number of times and only magnifies this in his hyper-rhetoric. The biggest misrepresentation of Best’s is that Francione sees veganism as a “diet change.” Francione does NOT see veganism as merely a diet or a diet change (Francione has said this dozens or hundreds of times), but as an entire moral paradigm shift. Francione’s also presents his arguments against violence much more cogently than the arguments Best sets up as straw men, a brief summary of which one can read at the following link: . Best focuses on the “evil corporate-state complex,” and “the man” as the culprit, but 98.6% of the individuals in our society share the blame. Corporations and governments make bad decisions, but ultimately they are little more than a reflection of our nasty society (i.e. individuals) in the mirror.[27]

We did not suggest that Francione views veganism as a mere change in diet. We fully acknowledge that he is doggedly pursuing a legal and moral paradigm shift and applaud his contributions to the animal rights movement. However, Francione’s goal of revolutionizing society through vegan education and outreach alone is hopelessly idealistic and pragmatically untenable. As a follower of Francione and Hall, Cudahy advances a liberal model of change that is individualistic, reformist, and idealist (in the Marxian sense that moral change is sufficient to drive social change). The liberal model lacks a systemic critique of capitalism and modes of oppression and places the burden of blame and change on individuals rather than on social structures and powerful institutional forces. Certainly every person on planet Earth contributes to the depletion resources, extinction of species, and breakdown of the environment, but how Cudahy arrives at his 98.6% figure is beyond us, but that means that corporations are only responsible for 1.4% of the global social and environmental crisis!

Clearly, Cudahy’s emphasis on individual responsibility is informed by capitalist ideology he has yet to scrutinize and individual responsibility is a reifying abstraction unless key distinctions are made. Just as carnivores leave a much heavier ecological footprint than vegans, and people in Western “developed” nations contribute to ecological entropy many times more than those in the “undeveloped” world, so corporations are far more responsible for rainforest destruction, global warming, air and water pollution, desertification, and so on than is any individual, but Cudahy’s ultra-individualist outlook shifts the burden of blame from General Electric, ExxonMobil, and Monsanto to a faceless populace, from the timber, oil, mining, and agriculture industries to statistical individuals. We shudder at the political consequences of this regressive liberalism and inverted form of thinking.[28]

Francione, Hall, and their followers want to have their vegan cake and eat it too. Convincing themselves that focusing strictly on vegan education and outreach will ultimately end the abject torture and murder of animals they abhor enables them to feel good about their commitment to animal liberation while simultaneously preserving the reprehensible system that facilitates such horrors against the animals. Capitalism and its myriad attendant ills of corporatism, imperialism, consumerism and the like must go if we hope to empty the cages and, just as importantly, mitigate or end the impending eco-crisis. It is no slur on the “integrity” of reason to say that it cannot “carry the day,” rather it is a vital character of reason and a movement’s lucidity to recognize the limits of rational persuasion amidst a force-field of violence, irrationality, and entrenched economic interests, and to develop the tactics adequate for this unfortunate human and social reality.

As noted anarcho-primitivist John Zerzan observed, “It is important to question ideological limitations stemming from a place of extreme privilege. Most people on earth do not have the comfort to decide what the most `righteous’ response to domination should be, and often the stakes are life and death.”[29] The institutional rewards and privileges enjoyed by Francione, Hall, Feral, and other liberal vegans are those of the professional, white, Western elite class who project their nonviolent philosophies onto the entire world as if everyone enjoyed the rights and privileges they do. But these biases have gone unquestioned by a legion of abolitionist followers who share Francione and Hall’s fundamentalist pacifism and liberal-reformist politics.

Zerzan is not a vegan and we are not primitivists, but his prescriptions for slaying the beast of Westernized socioeconomic rape, pillage and plunder, as just the head of the monster of agricultural society and “civilization” are far more palatable to us than Francione’s because Zerzan recognizes the depth and urgency of the apocalyptic situation in which we find ourselves after ten thousand years of “civilization.” Saving the animals is futile if the Earth is rendered uninhabitable by the techno-industrial machine, or rather by agricultural society and its inexorable logic of growth, expansion, and violence, an economic-political-military system of imperialism inseparable from a conceptual system of imperialism based on a hierarchical ordering of difference that informs every pernicious form of bias, prejudice, and discrimination.

Single issue, bourgeois, liberal, white upper middle to upper class people are NOT going to carry out a successful revolution by becoming vegans and trying to teach others to do the same. They are going to become touchy-feeling, electric car-driving, organic gardening, Whole Foods shopping consumers. The vegan lifestyle championed by Francione, Hall, & Co. is devoid of political and environmental content and is reactionary by default. The vanilla white faces of most of the US neo-abolitionist movement are emblematic of the lack of ethnic diversity in the modern vegan, abolitionist, and “animal whites” movements, as their legal backgrounds and middle-class status smack of class privilege.[30] And yet Francionites are oblivious to how this insularity impedes “vegan revolution,” and they make few visible efforts to build bridges from privileged white communities to the poor, people of color, and the oppressed in southern nations such as South Africa (a country to which Best personally has ventured three times to promote veganism, animal rights, and awareness of the interconnectedness of human, nonhuman animal, and environmental issues).

Although a vegan society of any significant dimension would have a massive positive impact on human health, social justice, and planetary ecology, these pseudo-abolitionists burdened with the Superego of the state fail to acknowledge how their vegan version of lifestyle politics can be easily co-opted by capitalism (as is already clearly evident in the many lines of vegan foods, restaurants, clothing, and merchandise) and be transformed into just another individualist, new-age, spiritualist, consumerist mindset and lifestyle that promotes market growth, labor exploitation, and environment destruction (e.g., whether through clear cutting needed to grow soy crops, long-distance transportation of organic fruits and vegetables, or support for an inherently repressive and anti-ecological global economic system).[31]

Violence: Vilified and Verboten

“You’ll get freedom by letting your enemy know that you’ll do anything to get your freedom; then you’ll get it…when you stay radical long enough and get enough people to be like you, you’ll get your freedom.” Malcolm X

Billions of animals suffer intense psychological and physical violence every day at the hands of the agriculture, vivisection, clothing, hunting, breeding, and entertainment industries, to name just a few interested parties, who slice, dice, and spice them for their bloody lucre. Just why exactly would they surrender their power, position, and profits to a miniscule vegan and animal rights community? Just how do we rally an ignorant, indifferent, and self-interested public to ethical boycotts in the numbers needed? And exactly why would animal defenders categorically reject the use of any tactic that could weaken industries, save nonhuman animals, and strengthen their own role as an oppositional force amidst planetary omnicide?

Francione and Hall have two reasons for rejecting the use of “violence” as a legitimate tactic of struggle, insisting that on moral grounds it is hypocritical and wrong, and on pragmatic grounds it is ineffective and self-defeating. To begin with the moral argument, both believe that the animal rights movement is unique in relation to other social movements in representing the “ultimate rejection of violence” (Francione), a peace movement deeper than anything yet conceived in that it is extended to all sentient beings, not just humans. Neither provides a careful or rigorous definition and analysis of violence beyond the conventional definition that violence involves an intentional act of causing physical harm or injury to another. Both, however, extend the definition of violence to include property destruction, threats, and harassment, and thus view the ALF and SHAC as violent groups.

Astonishingly enough amidst a rapidly escalating animal Holocaust both elevate the Buddhist ethic of nonviolence, ahimsa, to the pinnacle of ethical theories, personal virtues, and tactical imperatives. So intoxicated with ahimsa, Francione declares himself to be “violently opposed to violence.”[32] Not to be outdone in the rhapsodic pacifist department, however, Hall carries this venerated tradition – formulated over two thousand years before the sixth great extinction crisis and the ecocrisis currently convulsing the planet — to ludicrous extremes. A postmodern Jesus, Hall implicates overly harsh or critical language and enjoins us to turn the other cheek, to love human and animal oppressors, to cleanse our hearts of hostility and anger, and to see humanity as One, without spiritually fogging concepts such as “enemy.”

This absolutist position rejects violence as always wrong and admits no exceptions, including the use of violence for a “noble” cause, as they embrace the cliché that “the ends don’t justify the means.” They do not explore self-defense as the most obvious counter-example to their rigid rule, and thus do not address the question of whether animal advocates can use violence against exploiters because animals cannot defend themselves (what we call “extensional self-defense”).

If Francione and Hall were next to a baby seal about to be clubbed to death and the only way they could stop it would be to physically intervene in some aggressive and violent way, or at least to grab and throw the weapon into the sea (an act that earned Paul Watson expulsion from Greenpeace, an organization he co-founded), would they do it? Or would they stand idly by and watch, perhaps making a moral argument for ahimsa or a plea to the sealer’s inner goodness or moral conscience, as he drives the spiked club into the seal’s head, grinning ear-to-ear while proceeding to strip the skin off its bloodied but still breathing body? We wonder who the seal would wish present on the ice in those crucial moments before the club came down on its skull – a devotee of ahimsa or a militant direct activist?[33]

We consider this a case of how nonviolence leads to violence when pacifists refuse to intervene when violence is occurring, as the capitalist speciesist butchers bash in brains and carve up the planet knowing their violence is protected by the shield of nonviolence practiced by opponents with dulled instincts and a slave mentality, opponents who throw down their weapons before entering into battle. The fundamentalist pacifist argument is an ideal pertinent to communities of saints but not to a society of human beings rooted in both a social and biological past riddled with violence, murder, and genocide. Nonviolence should be the first option, but not the only option.

Francione and Hall agree with us that history is a slaughterbench of oppression, but use the same premise to reach the opposite conclusion. If violence is what brought the world to its current state, they reason, then violent means of resistance are part of the problem not the solution and the “truly radical” approach, the only answer, is to break with all past history and inaugurate a nonviolent revolution that extends throughout humans and to all species and the earth as a whole.

It is incredible, implausible, and naïve to uphold pacifism as the one and only acceptable way of overcoming the orgy of violence and brutality that is human history. If we cannot always stop violence through nonviolence, through love and persuasion, then we either adhere to rigid principles inconsistent with logic and social reality or we deploy a counter-violence to stop a Holocaust and create conditions for potential peace. The ALF does not consider their sabotage actions to be violent, and if pacifists in the movement agreed we could without undue fanfare add sabotage to the list of morally acceptable tactics to mount a much stronger resistance than with love and reasoning alone. But of course Francione and Hall block this option too, and leave us weaker than we already are in relation to the powerful animal-industrial complex.

The facts of history and human character, however, provide strong inductive evidence that animal exploiters will not abandon their blood trade without a prolonged violent struggle waged with the continued aid of the state and its police and military forces. Derrick Jensen notes: “Is it possible to talk about fundamental social change without asking ourselves questions we too often refuse to ask, such as `What if those in power are murderous? What if they’re not willing to listen to reason at all? Should we continue to approach them nonviolently? … [W]hen is violence an appropriate means to stop injustice?’ But with the world dying—or rather being killed—we no longer have the luxury to change the subject or delete the question. It’s a question that won’t go away.”[34]

The massive gulf between social history and human nature (defined but not exhausted by a habitual use of violence) on one side and utopian pacifism on the other side invites more than a bit of skepticism, especially amidst the severe crisis situation of the present. You can’t win a fight against a much larger and armed opponent if unarmed oneself, or even with many unarmed allies, if the opponent is huge, powerful, and uses violence without hesitation or qualms.

Their second wedge against using violence to defend nonhuman animals from cruel killing and exploitation is the pragmatic argument that violence is counterproductive insofar as it leads to results such as alienating the public and inviting the blowback of fierce state repression that endangers our very right to speak and to dissent. To this we respond: it is dogmatism and studied ignorance of the highest order to deny the numerous times that MDA, and often only MDA, freed nonhuman animals and shut down their exploiters. We already described some powerful examples of effective MDA and additional instances of it are detailed in countless videos and documentaries like Behind the Mask, and are richly described in accounts through personal narratives and historical accounts (e.g., Keith Mann’s From Dusk ‘till Dawn and Best and Nocella’s Terrorists or Freedom Fighters).

There is, we admit, merit in the rejoinder that raids and sabotage actions have been effective only in the short term, such that nonhuman animals liberated from laboratories are quickly replaced and insurance companies cover the costs of smashed equipment and torched buildings. Not all ALF actions are good, intelligent, or successful, certainly, but many have been, permanently shutting down operations such as “fur farms,” vivisection labs, and breeders and have intimidated countless people from making a career in animal exploitation. Famous cases such as the liberation of Britches the monkey and the raid on the University of Pennsylvania head injury lab clinic stand as monuments to the value of a militant underground component of the animal liberation movement.

Obviously, these tactics alone are not going to end animal exploitation in a nihilistic capitalist society ruled by the profit imperative, exchange value, and a deeply inculcated speciesism and anthropocentrism. Animal liberation in a meaningful sense is not possible until we extirpate the roots of human supremacy and related modes of oppression, a revolutionary task which requires education on a massive scale. To ensure that actions against exploiters on the production end do not just lead to replacement of nonhuman animals and property, there must be an education effort on the consumption end that persuades as many people as possible to boycott and eschew any product or process involving animal exploitation. Beyond mere consumerism, education must strive to eliminate the values and attitudes of oppression, such as are rooted in contempt for difference and instrumentalizing others. But, as we are arguing, education itself is hardly adequate in the context of a cancerous global capitalism that feeds off of war, violence, oppression, and the destruction of all life.

Part of the education process is controlling the message of MDA. Francione argues, for instance, that because people perceive a need for “biomedical research” and “meat and dairy products,” attacks on these industries rile people and cause them to turn against a movement that requires as much popular support as possible. In fact, often just the opposite of the alienation effect occurs, as ALF actions have inspired many people to wake up to the human war against animals and to join the struggle on the side of the innocent, and perhaps the public is waking up to the lies of Big Pharma whose poorly designed and inadequately tested research protocols make prescription drugs the fourth leading medical cause of death in the US, exceeded only by heart disease, cancer, and stroke, killing over 100,000 people a year. Francione posits a false option between MDA and vegan education; instead of viewing them as two contrasting positions working together dialectically, Francione separates them antagonistically.

Facile statements such as “There is simply no social context in which violence against others can ever be interpreted as anything but negative” invite a thousand counter-examples (in England, for example, ALF actions enjoyed a high degree of popular support) and demands for a clear definition of violence. Such declarations assume, moreover, (1) that the media reports militant actions, which they typically don’t (partly because they happen virtually every day in some form), (2) that pacified publics care one way or the other about animal advocacy tactics and (3) that citizens’ potential disagreement or alienation matters more than the damage sabotage strikes can inflict on exploiters, and (4) that an organization like the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO) cannot help control and shape any report or story on MDA.

The Art of War

“Although animal use, like war, comes packaged as an eternal violence . . . advocates are not obliged to consider the animal rights movement a war . . . .Copying the activity of warmakers or soldiers, forcing people to behave or not to behave in certain ways—this perpetuates the paradigm of daily social control by some authoritative force.” Lee Hall, Capers in the Courtyard

“Right now we’re in the early stages of World War III. It’s the war to save the planet. [Direct] action will be getting stronger. Eventually there will be open war.” Paul Watson

Perhaps there is no better sign of a mystical holism that erases ineliminable differences and conflicts than Hall’s attempt to expunge the category of “enemy” from our thinking and to reduce the concept of war to a macho projection or internalized ideology of authoritarian state power systems. Hall entreats us not only to “love thy enemy” but to deny one has enemies at all. An “enemy” is a person, group, or nation that is intent on exploiting another person, group, or nation. Enemies are power forces that threaten survival and must be acknowledged as threats to freedom or life for self-preservation. The concept of enemy thus alerts one to a real danger to one’s existence and dispels any illusion of peace or rapprochement.

Throughout history humanity has waged a permanent war of extermination. As Ronnie Lee, founder of the ALF, put it: “We have been at war with the other creatures of this Earth ever since the first human hunter set forth with spear into the primeval forest. Human imperialism has everywhere enslaved, oppressed, murdered, and mutilated the animal peoples. All around us lie the slave camps we have built for our fellow creatures, factory farms and vivisection laboratories, Dachaus and Buchenwalds for the conquered species. We slaughter animals for our food, force them to perform silly tricks for our delectation, gun them down and stick hooks in them in the name of sport. We have torn up the wild places where once they made their homes. Speciesism is more deeply entrenched within us than even sexism, and that is deep enough.”

A war is a violent conflict between two parties, either through a clash of interests or aggressive act on one party’s part. Wars preempt or preclude dialogue and negotiation such that differences are settled through violence. Just as wars can break out between any type of human group, so humans can wage war against other animals through perpetual violence and assault.

Wars are no more limited to intrahuman dynamics than are rights, nor do they need involve two “rational” (a most ironic alleged attribute in this case) and consenting parties, or a condition where each group is capable of fighting back or of self defense in any significant and organized way. Thus, it seems to make perfect sense to agree with Ronnie Lee that humanity indeed has waged a protracted war against nonhuman animals in the most brutal way; in fact this is the most barbaric, prolonged, and costly war in the history of the planet, and continues to be. Whereas some animal species are captive slaves bred for exploitation and profit, others are hunted and massacred into oblivion.

On the TPC comment thread, Derek Oatis doesn’t challenge the use of the term “war” so much in this context as he problematizes the implications of framing the conflict in these terms. Oatis tries to pin us with a slippery slope fallacy, such that those taking up battle against corporate exploiters with whom they have no illusion of placating are committed to carrying out a firefight with virtually the entire population except a miniscule population of vegans, a blade of grass in the forest of humanity. Oatis writes: “It seems to me inaccurate and perhaps disingenuous to claim that ALF or SHAC’s `war’ is in anyway limited in scope …Unlike the civil rights movement or other human liberation moments, I’m not sure what sense it makes to start a `war’ when the other side is just about everyone on the planet …if nearly all people are speciesist, and nearly all in the US consume meat — or `humane meat’ for the `conscionable and “aware’ – why aren’t we attacking our speciesist, carnivorous colleagues, family members, friends, and neighbors? Doesn’t the war move from corporate headquarters, university science labs, fur farmers to neighborhood communities?”

As we noted above, we recognize that many individuals can potentially be persuaded to become vegans and animal rights proponents, like we were. The movement is full of examples of people who were former factory “farmers” (Howard Lyman), hunters (Steve Hindi), vivisectors (Don Barnes), and so on. But there is an important distinction – missed by single-issue fetishists like Karen Dawn who want to open up the animal protection movement to embrace anyone and everyone, including “compassionate conservatives” and the far right – between changeable individuals and inflexible institutions and corporations whose bottom line depends on torture, bloodshed, and mass murder. As a movement, we need to continue to focus our direct action efforts on the moneyed interests that perpetrate institutionalized violence on non-human animals en masse. To suggest that those who engage in violent action against the state will shift their focus and start bombing grandma’s kitchen because she has hamburger in her freezer is a reductio ad absurdum at its worst.

Actually, the ALF targets producers, owners, researchers, and others more or less directly involved in the exploitation of animals, thereby keeping a fairly narrow and well-defined target range. The brilliance of SHAC, however, is that it broadened the circle to encompass “non-combatant support personnel” by instigating direct action against employees and suppliers to a corporation as well as against the corporation itself. This far broader target area thus diffused responsibility for oppression to a far wider circle of people, and riled the dragon of the corporate-state complex which fought back with heavy jail penalties for “harassment” and “stalking,” and related charges not commonly meted out to even to the ALF. Although they broaden the meaning of “non-combatants” in a “just war,” SHAC targets only those who are involved with companies that provide services to HLS, and while their targets are many they are neither amorphous nor arbitrary, and certainly have not spilled over into battle with flesh-eaters in restaurants and family homes.

In a wild disanalogy, Oatis goes on to write, “The way this `war’ is described by Best/Miller sounds a hell of a lot like George Bush’s war on terror. That plan was ‘let’s just start killing Midwestern looking folks’, screw any sort of strategy.’” Bush’s “war on terror” is propaganda cover for imperial invasions for resources and geopolitically strategic positions. It also sets up terrorism as a scapegoat to replace communism, a scapegoat the US needs to rationalize the perpetuation of the leviathan military-industrial-academic complex. In the war on terror, nearly anyone can be labeled a terrorist and tortured accordingly. In contrast to this moral abomination, the war to defend nonhuman animals and to end the genocide against them is just and has no hidden agenda. The enemy is distinctly defined; the tactics don’t create millions of innocent victims (there is no “collateral damage”); in fact, thus far even the most militant direct activists have not killed a single human being.

We of course have a significant problem comparing Bush with animal liberationists, but Oatis makes this important qualification and observation for us: “Direct action is not necessarily (as Lee Hall would have us believe) a means of degrading the ‘other side.’ Direct action can be a way of communicating that our commitment and our passion are as deep as any other’s and that we are willing to put our own safety and freedom on the line. Within a certain context, this is an expression that can earn respect, even from those that do not agree with us. And respect is how to begin a dialogue.”

Direct action does make the movement more respectable to the opposition because it demonstrates courage and a high degree of dedication. It is also empowering in that we are not waiting for someone else such as legislators to take the action for us— in the vast majority of cases they will not; we seize the initiative ourselves. As American anarchist and feminist writer Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912) put it, “Direct action is always the clamorer, the initiator, through which the great sum of indifferentists become aware that oppression is getting intolerable.”

But Oatis only goes so far in agreeing with us, adding: “as I have stated, although I largely agree with the criticisms of Ms. Hall and her work I also believe that non-violence is the only acceptable means of activism.” Here we see Oatis lapse into the same dogmatic quicksand that immobilizes Hall and Francione

The pacifist position flies in the face of all known empirical dynamics of struggle. Bea Elliott captured this point well in a thoughtful comment on Mary Martin’s site: “An inevitable increase in direct action is a certainty… How can it not be? As things progress in social awareness, the opposing side will of course, be compelled to defend their `rights’ still. Confrontations will escalate in frequency and in degree. We are after all, going up against ancient institutions and modern economics. Nothing short of Revolution is at hand. But as Cudahy said, timing and numbers are critical. We must, through vegan education and information based activism, increase public awareness that our `platform’ is based on `less harm’ and not more. We must change a cultural view that sees Animal Rights not as radical but rational. We shouldn’t jeopardize the goal of abolitionism by premature or `unpopular’ strikes… And I agree with [commenter] Elaine that for now, open rescue [freeing animals from cages without hiding one’s identity or destroying property] has the most positive influence and is of help to all… But I can envision a time, when different lines are drawn. I think it’s important for the most passive vegan among us to realize and prepare for more physical activities as circumstances will necessitate. We may for a time continue to (nicely) invite the public to look at the emperor… and to look into the mirror. But, at some point – there will be resistances that will not be conquered unless we are wiling to opt for all strategies. I think it’s naive to think that this `war’ of ideology will not eventually include grand-scale counter `violence.’ As for fighters who have awareness of this battle ahead, and who act in justified desperation now, how can one possibly not cheer them on?”[35]

The China Syndrome

“Lee has said veganism is achieved one person at a time; we’re striving to achieve a critical mass.” Priscilla Feral

“The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future—deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.” World Watch Editors

Juxtaposing Feral’s brief encapsulation of Hall’s vision of the vegan “revolution” with World Watch’s succinct but thorough summary of the litany of challenges comprising the impending ecocrisis illuminates the profound inadequacies in their strategy. Hall and her fellow Francionites are desperately trying to quench a raging inferno with thimbles of water.

A mere glimpse at a few headlines gathered from a variety of new sources throughout the world , both mainstream and alternative, provides a clear indication that the time necessary to implement the vegan “revolution” is a luxury we do not possess:

“Parched: Australia Faces Collapse as Climate Change Kicks In”

“Long Droughts, Rising Seas Predicted Despite Future CO2 Curbs”

“World Sea levels to Rise 1.5m by 2100”

“Number of Strong Hurricanes Doubles Over Past 35 Years”

“Riots, Instability Spread as Food Prices Skyrocket”

“Billions Could Go Hungry from Global Warming by 2100”

“Brazil Amazon Deforestation Soars”

“Over 15,000 Species Face Extinction”

“Apes ‘Extinct in a Generation’”

“THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: It Happened to Him. It’s Happening to You”

“Both Ends of Earth Are Melting”

“U.N. Warns of Rapid Decay of Environment”

“Panel Issues Bleak Report on Climate Change”

“Save the Planet? It’s Now or Never, Warns landmark UN report”

“Humans Living Far Beyond Planet’s Means”

“Earth Can’t Sustain Humans”

In just 10,000 years, a millisecond of geological time, Homo sapiens civilization, embodied by the repulsively rapacious paradigm of Western speciesist capitalism and anthropocentrism has managed to push the planet to the brink of ecological collapse. Droughts, violent hurricanes, melting ice caps, drowning polar bears, increasing hunger, food riots, diminishing supplies of potable water, species of plants and animals disappearing at an alarming rate, and a host of other frightening events are unfolding more quickly that scientists can even document. Scientists throughout the world are warning of a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity for averting a catastrophic level of climate change, and NASA scientist James Hansen warned newly elected President Obama that he has “four years to save Earth” through a radical shift in US energy policies or face the real potential of ecological breakdown reaching a crucial tipping point.[36]

We don’t deny that widespread veganism would go a long way toward mitigating the planet’s dire problems with climate change, rainforest destruction, water pollution, desertification, resource scarcity, hunger, social conflicts, and species extinction. But considering the facts that the concept of veganism emerged in 1944 and in 65 years no more than 2% of the human population has embraced veganism,[37] and that world flesh consumption has increased five-fold from 1950 to 1997, the singular devotion to vegan education (and its resultant sweeping dismissal of myriad other potential strategies) is clearly a tactical dead-end and losing strategy.[38] Raging flesh consumption is shredding the vegan paradigm, and despite some gains the vegan and animal rights cause is rapidly losing ground and hemorrhaging badly. Emerging capitalist entities with huge populations, like China and India, are driving the demand for rotting animal corpses and other animal-derived products through the roof as the disease of consumerism –stoked by Madison Avenue advertising — whets the appetites of the populace for hamburgers, bacon, fried chicken, eggs, and milk shakes, all conveniently provided by the scourge of fast-food outlets and the globalization of the animal-industrial complex.

In a February 17, 2009 interview, Mia MacDonald of Brighter Green, a non-profit environmental think tank based in New York, discussed her case study of China’s runaway demand for animal-derived food products:

Since 1980, meat consumption in China has risen four-fold. It’s now about 119 pounds per person a year, just over half the average American’s per capita annual meat consumption of 220 pounds.

In 2007, China raised and slaughtered 700 million pigs. That’s about 10 times the number in the U.S., although pork is China’s most popular meat and China’s population is more than four times as large as the U.S.’s, dairy consumption is rising even faster; the dairy industry in China has grown 20 percent a year over the past decade, and consumption of milk products in China has risen three times since 2000.[39]

As Mark Bittman writes, “Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago.” There is a shocking spike in global flesh consumption as well: “The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years.) World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050.”[40]

Whilst Hall and Francionites cling to their messianic faith in pacifistic veganism, the systemic savagery of capitalism that they rarely, if ever, address escalates its violent assault on nature, human animals, and nonhuman animals. Corporate overlords like Don Tyson aren’t concerned that human activity is creating an increasingly disturbing dystopia and mutating the Earth into a lifeless and barren asteroid. As Hall dedicates herself to converting white middle to upper class liberal Americans to veganism at an annual growth rate of about .03% per year, Tyson Foods, Inc is preparing to globalize its special brand of institutionalized violence, thereby positioning itself to enable billions of new dead animal flesh addicts around the world. The November 2, 2008 edition of USA Today reports that:

Tyson plans to duplicate his company’s domination of the U.S. livestock industry, but on a global scale. “Our company, as I would view it today, is in kind of a consolidation stage, getting ready for our growth overseas,” Tyson said in a rare and extensive interview with The Associated Press. If the strategy succeeds, it could do far more than deliver profits to the company and its shareholders. As Tyson Foods Inc. replicates its uniquely American model of corporate meat production throughout the developing world, the company could fundamentally transform rural economies in nations like India, Brazil and China.[41]

Make no mistake about it. Don Tyson and a host of ruthless hardcore exploiters are slavering over the tremendous profits to be had in China and other emerging capitalist nations with mammoth populations. For every dollar that we put into vegan education, they put a million into advertising, lobbying, and campaign donations that buttress the twenty first century’s “peculiar institution” that the USA Today euphemistically refers to as a “uniquely American model of corporate meat production.” Going head to head with the likes of Tyson without hammering them with every guerrilla tactic at our disposal is idiocy. It is the passive dark side of the public face of aggressive vegan outreach campaigns. And like it or not, if we want to end the animal holocaust, we have no choice but to take on the exploiters and the system that facilitates their loathsome existence in a much more varied, dynamic, and – when necessary – confrontational and militant form.

Hall envisions a “one person at a time” vegan revolution achieving “a critical mass” when there are billions of dollars driving capitalist exploiters to resist said revolution with all their considerable might and billions of newly minted consumerists poised to devour ton upon ton of factory “farmed” animal flesh. So we simply hand out vegan pamphlets in hopes that people will accept them, create a vegan cookbooks to sell at hip independent bookstores, and advertise a dinner with a speaker at the vegan café in the Village, debate welfarists on podcasts, and maybe the number of vegans will rise to 5 or possibly 10 % of the human population within the next 100 years? But by 2050, the human population is projected to jump from 6 to 9 billion people, and these teeming billions will consume flesh at twice the already disastrous current rates. Whatever the percentage of plant-eating converts in 50 years, we can be fairly sure that the vegan tugboat will continue to lose ground to the flesh-eating cruiser and that if vegan education means anything it has to break through the glass ceiling of Western white privilege and begin to build bridges and alliances in their neighborhoods and nations, across barriers of race, gender, age, culture, religion, language, race, country, class, and continents to forever dispel the justly-deserved widespread view that vegans and animal rights advocates care “only” about nonhuman animals and indifferent to the plight of other people.

Borrowing a phrase from Carol Adams, China – and the ecocrisis as a whole – is the “absent referent” in the work of Francione, Hall, and countless other vegan advocates. It boggles the mind: why don’t they acknowledge these alarming statistics and make them a central part of their analysis and critique of speciesism, flesh consumption, and capitalism? The answer is clear: to recognize the reality of the global ecocrisis is to understand its emergency nature; this in turn forces one to admit that the single-issue vegan education glacial model of change tactics are completely inadequate to the task and that more varied, alliance-oriented, and radical actions are necessary.

This opens the door to actions such as sabotage which pacifists want to lock up in the basement like a vicious, terrifying monster. It destroys the complacency that asks us to be infinitely patient and disable any number of effective tactics in obedience to a party line that is increasingly out of touch with reality and the true severity of the planetary crisis. And it forces us to think outside the single issue box, to explore commonalities of oppression (beyond the vague gestures of Francione and Hall), and to begin building bridges with other social movements in a global anti-capitalist multiracial politics that challenges hierarchies of all kind, very much including that of human over nonhuman animals and the natural world.

Conclusion: Total Liberation in the Era of Ecocrisis

“Let’s be honest. The animal rights movement as we now know it will never become a revolutionary struggle because the representatives of the oppressed enjoy enough privilege from the system they oppose to prevent them from supporting, let alone engaging in actual revolutionary activity that would risk those comforts.” Rod Coronado, former ALF activist and political prisoner

In summary, we salute the efforts of Francione, Hall, and a host of others who are part of a growing new abolitionist movement with roots in the US anti-slavery movement of the nineteenth century and the human and animal rights traditions. A galvanizing force for the growth of the new abolitionists has been the welfarist and collaborationist campaigns of HSUS and PETA that in the attempt to reduce the horrific suffering animals experience within modern conditions of confinement and slaughter have abandoned and arguably forfeited the struggle for the elimination rather than amelioration of nonhuman animal exploitation.

The new abolitionism is a decisive advance over the dominant welfarist and pseudo-rights tendencies in the contemporary animal advocacy movement. Our purpose, however, had been to uncover the highly problematic nature of new abolitionism which has been uncritically received throughout the world, specifically as evident in the work of leading voices such as Francione and Hall.

We want to emphasize that, despite the patronizing and pontificating dogma of Hall, there are other forms of abolitionism besides one-dimensional vegan pacifism, forms more true to the pluralistic character of nineteenth century abolitionism. This movement included whites and blacks, men and women, privileged and non-privileged, free person and slave, and nonviolent and violent elements. Its social composition and alliance politics character (common throughout the nineteenth century, uniting movements militating for women, workers, African-Americans, children, and nonhuman animals) was more complex and advanced than the single-issue “animal protection” movement, and pacifist doctrinaires did not straightjacket abolitionist tactics.

From the 1840s and for decades to come Frederick Douglass preached the Gospel of struggle. Harriet Tubman pioneered the Underground Railroad that freed dozens of slaves to the North in blatant violation of slave “ownership” laws, and she advocated nonviolence, although she provided aid to John Brown. A white Christian who loathed slavery as a violation of the will of God, John Brown led a failed armed rebellion on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, yet Brown and his courage and commitment to equality inspires resistance to this day. And in 1831, lay preacher Nat Turner led a slave uprising with a band of over 50 people. For 30 hours, they travelled from house to house freeing slaves and killing over 60 white people and striking fear into the hearts of all white oppressors. In fact, we suggest that the Animal Liberation Front, which has its own Underground Railroad to shuttle liberated animals to place they can receive care and shelter, is a more authentic contemporary example of nineteenth century abolitionism than the timid and tepid form that Francione and Hall represent.

The main problem with their position, as should be evident, is dogmatism, which takes forms such as what we are calling fundamentalist pacifism. In their outlooks, nonviolence is more of a theology, metaphysics, and religion than a critically reflexive ethical, political, and tactical philosophy. The vehemence of this worldview is well captured by Francione’s declaration that he is “violently opposed to violence.” The dogmas are encased with essentialist definitions of “animal rights” and “veganism,” such that they, and only they, command the true and real understanding and praxis of these concepts which, as if through divination of a Natural Law, are wedded to nonviolence. We thank Shishkoff – who Zeus-like threw down a thunderous pronouncement that we, despite decades of abstinence of animal-derived products between us, are NOT vegans – for making this point more eloquently and powerfully than we could have done ourselves. This essentialism is particularly virulent in Hall’s worldview and it informs her excoriation of the MDA movement – comprised of a quilt work of distortion, misrepresentation, inaccuracies, misunderstanding, slander, and ad hominems.

This studied caricature in our view constitutes nothing less than a betrayal of the movement and nonhuman animals themselves. Indeed, even if one consults the propaganda of animal exploitation industries and corporate front groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom – it is hard to find a more distorted and venomous characterization of militant direct activists. Capers in the Courtyard certainly assists FBI efforts to repress, jail, and annihilate militant direct action. It is most ironic that Hall blames groups like SHAC and the ALF for bringing on repressive laws such as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, when her polemics have a regressive effect that contribute to the vilification of MDA groups and facilitates the very state repression she bemoans. We defy any objective reader (e.g., someone not an employee of Friends of Animals) to read Capers and not find evidence of the Stockholm Syndrome in Hall’s mindset, such that she sympathizes more with animal exploiters than hard-core animal activists.

Whereas Francione and Hall think the task is to steer between welfarism on one side and MDA on the other, we see a different way to proceed. Against a dogmatic and one-dimensional abolitionism we propose a methodological and tactical outlook based on pluralism, contextualism, and pragmatism. Against a one-dimensional, single-issue veganism, we advocate a multidimensional alliance politics. Opposed to the elitist, white, Western-centric standpoint of Francione and Hall we advocate a radical extension of veganism to communities of the poor, working classes, and people of color, and beyond into South Africa, Brazil, China, India, and elsewhere.

Francione and Hall are reformists at the grand level of working within capitalism, seeking change within the system. Given that they are both lawyers, each has an inherent professional bias and institutional advantage to seeking change within the constraints of the capitalist state, legal system, and mode of production. Moving from animal rights to the more general level of society overall, they are much closer to HSUS and PETA than they think. In fact, at this level, they are all reformists; they want us all to have a bigger cage in the Global Capitalist Gulag. They are all liberals, seeking piecemeal change and trying to abolish animal exploitation in a vast global animal industrial complex whose profits increasingly are dependent upon whipping up new “carnivorous” desires, opening up flesh markets throughout the world, and becoming more, not less, entrenched, more, not less, materially wedded to the destruction of all life and the planet, and more, not less, fiercely committed to stopping ragtag vegan organizing if necessary. And it will never willingly relinquish its death grip on this planet. Certainly not to 100 white professionals from Friends of Animals who might protest against it, and who approach on friendly and respectful terms, proudly proclaiming their allegiance to soulforce and disavowing the use of a potentially stronger force that might actually be able to challenge an exploitative industry. And so the purveyors of death extend their hand in friendship, knowing that they have absolutely nothing to worry about with the ahimsa-beholden minuscule numbers of a marginalized vegan subculture.

We defend a form of animal liberation that (1) defends the use of high-pressure direct action tactics, along with illegal raids, rescues and sabotage attacks; (2) views capitalism as an inherently irrational, exploitative, and destructive system, and sees the state to be a corrupt tool whose function is to advance the economic and military interests of the corporate domination system and to repress opposition to its agenda; (3) has a broad, critical understanding of how different forms of oppression are interrelated, such that human and nonhuman animal liberation are ultimately one and the same project; and thus (4) promotes an anti-capitalist alliance politics with other rights, justice, and liberation movements who share the common goal of dismantling all systems of hierarchical domination and rebuilding societies through decentralization and democratization processes.

Throughout the world today we find runaway “meat” consumption in China, India, Brazil, and throughout the world, as fueled by capitalism, the “livestock” industry, “factory farming,” and the agricultural-industrial complex. This is a cancerous system growing out of control and must be stopped, but it will not stop, stall, or slow down simply because merely 2% (and barely growing) of the US population is vegan.

Despite their attempts to effect a break and paradigm shift from welfarism and to position themselves as antithetical to groups like HSUS and PETA, Francione, Hall, and their flock of digital devotees share more similarities with the welfare movement than differences because they all speak to elite white audiences almost exclusively, pursue single-issue and non-confrontational politics, might utter a peep against capitalism but ultimately endorse it with a roar, advance dogmatic pacifist philosophies, and, in the case of HSUS and Hall in particular, denigrate MDA in official corporate-state language and help demonize them so the FBI can then criminalize them.

Despite the fanfare of Francione and followers who tout their abolitionist approach as radically different from welfarism, whether “old” or “new,” both share core assumptions and values. These enemies are ideologically and socially inbred in fundamental ways. Pacelle – one of their arch foes – is actually their doppelganger. Pacelle and Francione-Hall are wedded to the state and to capitalism and pursue no larger social changes and no confrontational politics. Again, all speak to elite white audiences almost exclusively; all think in terms of fragments not whole systems; all are single-issue in their politics (despite Francione and Hall’s occasional lip-service support of alliance politics). To be clear: the problem is not that Francione and Hall never talk about capitalism, state power, and commonalities of oppression, they do; the issue rather is that they talk only in the abstract and do not systematically or concretely incorporate larger social and environmental issues into their work, let alone their practice. Whatever intentions to the contrary they may have, their work is overwhelmingly one-dimensional and single-issue and certainly to our knowledge they never mediate any such insights with practice.

The problem with their gradualist approach, like the problem with the incremental approach of HSUS or anyone else, is this: although a widespread vegan revolution will not grow roots for many decades, a century, or perhaps longer, the narrowing window of opportunity to stave off total ecological crisis is a few decades or only years away. The situation of dwindling oil supplies, rising food prices, and skyrocketing levels of flesh consumption by China and India should alert us to a crisis condition, not lull us into a condition of complacency. To reference The Matrix, they are peddling the blue pill of complacency over the red pill of knowledge, outrage, and radical action. We’re hurtling into an apocalyptic abyss and they are trying to sell us a vegan “revolution” that stacks up One Plate at a Time and is expected to reach a “critical mass” sometime in the indefinite future. But global catastrophe is here and now.

To be as blunt as we need to be: the vegan “revolution” pushed by Francione, Hall, Friends of Animals, and countless others in the vegan and animal rights/abolitionist movements is a myth, a fantasy, and a narcotic that lulls people into the deep sleep of complacency. Mainstream vegan politics is a one-dimensional, single-issue, Western-centric, white, elitist, consumerist, capitalist concept that this movement needs to shed quickly.

The fundamentalist pacifism that Francione and Hall are promulgating is a distorted outlook that is the product of the Jesus-Gandhi tradition of turn-the-other-cheek (although Jesus turned over some tables in his day), the Socratic-Enlightenment fallacy of humanity as a rational species that does the Good once it knows the Good, and the Rousseauian myth of an inherently sympathetic and benevolent humanity. This ideological concoction is mixed with the biases of white elite professionals who are products of the legal system and statist ideology and blended into a seductively sweet product distributed for mass consumption.

If we are to avert an ecological China Syndrome and liberate nonhuman animals, we must strike at the roots of the capitalist-anthropocentric paradigm with every tool at our disposal, including vegan education, MDA, and a host of others. The ecocrisis renders fundamentalist pacifism obsolete. While the kind of abolitionism championed by Francione and Hall is a sharp advance over welfarism, its lack of social politics and its deafening silence on the explosive growth of the global animal-industrial complex relegates it to a historical cul-de-sac and tactical dead-end that we must maneuver around and beyond.

Dr. Steve Best is TPC’s senior editor of total liberation and animal rights. Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, 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.

Jason Miller, Senior Editor and Founder of TPC, is a tenacious forty something straight edge vegan activist who lives in Kansas and who has a boundless passion for animal liberation and anti-capitalism. Addicted to reading and learning, he is mostly an autodidact, but he studied liberal arts and philosophy at the University of Missouri Kansas City . In early 2005, he founded the radical blog Thomas Paine’s Corner and is now the Senior Blog Editor and Blog Director for the Transformative Studies Institute. An accomplished, prolific essayist on social and political issues, his writings have appeared on hundreds of alternative media websites over the last few years. You can reach him at

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1. The essay is online at:

2. By “militant direct action” we mean legal and illegal actions taken against animal exploiters by animal liberationists. We contrast this to the “direct action” vegan approach of Francione, Hall, and their followers. We agree veganism is a powerful form of direct action, but we eschew their efforts to make it the only form of direct action, and we argue for the need to take a wide range of actions against animal oppressors, including the sabotage tactics of the ALF and ELF and the high-pressure and confrontational approach of SHAC.

3. For the historical record on the salaries of the FoA executive elite, see To access the information, type “Friends of Animals” in the name category, go to the 2008 Form 990: Feral’s salary is listed on page 8, and Hall and Orabona’s salaries are provided on page 13.

4. They are both, for instance, adamantly attached to an extreme pacifism. In an interview with Lee Hall, for example, Francione says: “I am absolutely and unequivocally opposed to any sort of violence directed toward humans or nonhuman. I am firmly committed to the principle of non-violence. The revolution I seek is one from the heart.” “An Interview with Professor Gary L. Francione on the State of the U.S. Animal Rights Movement,” September 2002, Actionline,

5. Of course we are specifically talking about the type of pacifism Francione and Hall promote in contrast to the MDA outlook we ourselves champion, and there will be different understandings of each general orientation. We note here, however, that in their strict emphasis on legal forms of activism and change through vegan education, Francione and Hall are considerably more conservative than Gandhi and King who consistently advocated civil disobedience and ways of non-cooperation that could challenge or throttle an entire social system.

6. Francione cited at the Animal Rights Community Online forum, at

7. In paternalistic and patronizing tones, Shishkoff scolds us: “Finally, do not call yourselves vegans. You’re not vegans. If you took the time to read what Donald Watson (who coined the term vegan in 1944) had to say, you’d know that what you’re doing is in direct opposition to what he envisioned. He was a dedicated peace activist and promoted ideas of peace and respect, and this was embodied in the vegan philosophy. The notion of blowing things up, militarism, or threatening people personally is anathema to veganism. Do not call yourselves vegans until you agree with the principles behind it. Anything less would be…well…hypocritical.”

8. Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), p. 158.

9. “Barack changes everything,” interview with Spike Lee, January 4, 2009, The Observer,

10. See, for instance, the Introduction to Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, eds. Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II. New York: Lantern Books, 2004, pp. 9-63.

11. On how underground and aboveground groups can compliment one another, without literally cooperating on tactics, see Kevin Jonas, “Bricks and Bullhorns,” in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters, pp. 263-271. For the power of this one-two punch approach to work, however, aboveground groups cannot demonize the underground as thugs and terrorists such as Hall does in her inimitable style.

12. For video documentation of some of these campaigns, and why such examples of horrific animal abuse drove activists to do more than hold up protest signs and write letters to the editors, see: “Save The Hillgrove Cats Campaign” ( and “Save The Shamrock Monkeys Campaign” (

13. For a surprisingly sympathetic article in the most unlikely of places, see Fred Burton, “SHAC Convictions: The Martyrdom Effect,” March 16, 2006, Stratfor Global Intelligence,

14. For details on SHAC’s modus operandi, see “SHAC Attack: Targeting Companies Animal Rights Style,” Do or Die, Issue #10,

15. “About Punk Rock and Animal Rights,” Punk Rock and Animal Rights, Even Francionite Bob Torres takes Hall to task for her vulgar caricature and dismissal of punk and hardcore music and subcultures; see his review of Capers at:

16. “SHAC Attack.”

17. Tom Regan, “How to Justify Violence,” in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters, pp. 231-236.

18. See Best’s critique of Dawn’s single-issue politics, opportunism, and farcical apology for far right shill and speechwriter Matthew Scully, “From “Dominion” to Domination: The Duplicity and Complicity of Matthew Scully,” September 6, 2008, Thomas Paine’s Corner,


20. As Brandon Becker understood, “I’m not a pacifist, so I don’t categorically reject counter-violence. I don’t categorically support it either. Context matters” (

21. As James Crump noted in response to our essay (TPC comment #45), the mainstream of this movement “has always marginalized veganism in favor of regulatory welfarist campaigns which seek to make institutionalized animal slavery more `humane.’ In light of that fact, the claim that vegan outreach has `failed’ as a movement strategy is vacuous as it is grounded in no empirical evidence.”

22. For an effective critique of Francione’s ahimsa dogma, see Rick Bogle’s contextualist reflections (as well as the responses by Justin Goodman and Derek Oatis) in “Animal Rights Violence,” August 23, 2007, Primate Freedom,

23. Jeff Perz, “Exclusive Non-Violent Action: Its Absolute Necessity for Building a Genuine Animal Rights Movement,” Abolitionist Online, Perz carried out an extended and most illuminating debate with Daniel Peyser. For Peyser’s general position, see “Beyond Pacifism” at: Peyser responded to Perz’s “Exclusive Non-Violent Action” essay at:–ToDo/Activism/Non-violence.htm. Perz’s rejoinder to Peyser’s critique is at:

24. Francione, Animal Rights Community Online, Nov 16 2007,

25. We also observe a common assumption that because far more nonhuman animals suffer and die for “food” production than any other form of exploitation, veganism should be the only or main focus of the entire animal advocacy movement, such that work on other issues wastes time and hurts the cause. But different issues are important in different areas (e.g., the vivisection is far more intense in the UK than here), and all contribute to challenging speciesism and ending animal exploitation in significant ways, as anti-vivisectionism, for instance, mounts a critique of one of the leading religions of the day – Science – and challenges powerful social and economic institutions as it facilitates the emergence of new forms of knowledge that sever the tie to a disabling Cartesianism and positivism.

26. Moreover, mainstream animal advocacy – reformist, single-issue, and pro-capitalism, whether by commitment or default — is perfectly compatible with right-wing, militarist, and imperialist philosophies (e.g., Matthew Scully, author of the widely-hailed book, Dominion, wrote pivotal speeches for George W. Bush and Sarah Palin).


28. Cudahy did, however, write a blog entry on building bridges to other social movements, which shows that he understands the need to break out of individualist ideology. See, “On the Strengths and Limitations of Alliance Politics,” November 21, 2008, Unpopular Vegan Essays,

29. John Zerzan, “Summarizing Primitivism for purposes of exploration and debate with Michael Albert,” North American Animal Liberation Press Office Newsletter, Volume One, Number 2, January 2006,

30. As seasoned activists like Paul Watson point out, while the US animal advocacy movement is lily-white, this generalization does not apply universally as throughout the world people of color oppose animal exploitation. For a critique of the single-issue, elitist, and maladroit aspects of the mainstream animal advocacy movement, PETA above all, while more than a bit speciesist on his side, see Tim Wise, “Animal Whites: PETA and the Politics of Putting Things in Perspective,” August 13, 2005, Counterpunch,

31. Freeganism is a quantum leap beyond mainstream veganism in that it commonly adopts an anti-capitalist and anti-consumerist philosophy and mode of living. For many freegans (some are carnivores), veganism is the starting point, not the ending point, of thinking and lifestyle changes that challenge consumerism as a whole. For an excellent statement on the politics of freeganism, see Adam Weisman, “The Revolution in Everyday Life,” in Best and Nocella’s, Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth. Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2006, pp. 127-136.

32. Francione interviewed by Bob Torres in a Vegan Freak radio show, at:

33. Joan Dunayer is much better than Francione or Hall on the validity of liberating animals. When discussing rescues of individual nonhuman animals, including illegal liberations, she says: “Such actions are non-speciesist, akin to saving individual Jews from the Holocaust or helping individual African-Americans escape from slavery. Providing sanctuary to those in need in no way violates their rights. It gets them out of danger and frees them from abuse,” Speciesism (Derwood Maryland, Ryce Publishing, 2004), p. 151. Similarly, in Animal Equality: Language and Liberation (Derwood Maryland, Ryce Publishing, 2001), discussing the liberation of imprisoned dolphins in 1977, Dunayer comes out on favor of liberation: “I wholeheartedly support the illegal liberation of oppressed nonhumans. But someone must provide for liberated animals’ safety and well-being if they seem unable to defend themselves. Kea and Puka were released – while debilitated – into the Pacific rather than their native Atlantic. No one prepared them for freedom or took measures to protect them. Almost certainly they died” (p. 240, footnote 7). This passage makes clear that she supports ALF-style liberations, provided the rescuers plan ahead to make sure the liberated beings can survive on their own or are cared for by humans, which indeed is what the ALF does according to its credo.

34. Derrick Jensen, End Game, Volume I: The Problem of Civilization. (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006, pp 9-10).

35. Elliot cited on Mary Martin’s blog Animal People, at:

36. Robin McKie, “President ‘has four years to save Earth,’” The Observer, January 18, 2009,

37. Results vary significantly from survey to survey with none exceeding 2%, little information on the vegan population outside the US and the UK is available, and most polls show the vegan populations in the US and UK to be closer to .5%. See the Vegan Research Panel, at:

38. “United States Leads World Meat Stampede,” July 2, 1998, Worldwatch Institute,


40. Mark Bittman, “Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler,” January 27, 2008, The New York Times,



Our Task

Posted in animal liberation with tags , , , , on December 13, 2009 by carmen4thepets

by Dr. Steven Best

The “animal rights movement,” such as it is, poses a fundamental evolutionary challenge to human beings in the midst of severe social and ecological crises. Can we recognize that the animal question is central to the human question? Can we grasp how the exploitation of nonhuman animals is implicated in every aspect of mental, social, and ecological breakdown? Can we illuminate and eliminate the corrupt constellation of overlapping oppressions that constitute the sickness and bungled experiment we call “civilization”? Can we become truly enlightened and overcome one of the last remaining prejudices, a sanctioned system of murder, a legally-validated police-protected form of enslavement, an ongoing holocaust? Can humans reorganize their economic institutions, retool their technologies, and reconstruct their cultural traditions apart from visceral violence and socially-secured  sadism? Can they construct new sensibilities, values, worldviews, and identities?

Animal liberation is an assault on human identity  alienated  from the natural world and complex with vanity and arrogance.   It demands that humans relinquish their sense of superiority over nonhumans  and smash the compasses of anthropocentrisim and speciesismAnimal liberation provokes people to realize that power demands responsibility and that might is not right.  , It places an unprecedented burden on humanity to act altruistically and no longer exploit their fellow beings.  Animal liberation calls people back to an integral consciousness and relation to their teeming natural surroundings such as their early ancestors enjoyed before symbolic thinking, technological culture, agriculture, and the emergence of hierarchical ideologies and institutions.

By expanding the definition and boundaries of moral subjects and community, animal liberationists challenge hierarchical thinking of all kinds (racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ablism, and statism). Above all, it dismisses the speciesist mindset that humanity is apart from, rather than a part of, the natural world and evolutionary processes.  In a masterful example of question begging and circular reasoning – animals are deemed inferior to humans because they are not humans (i.e., they lack allegedly unique human qualities such as reasoning, language, and symbolic and technological cultures). Distorted conceptions of human beings as demigods who command a planet that exists solely for its interests and benefits must be replaced with the far more humble and holistic notion that humans belong to, and are dependent upon, vast networks of organic and inorganic relationships.

Let’s be clear: we are fighting for a revolution, not for reforms, for the end of slavery, not for “humane” slavemasters, for a new consciosuenss, not “enlightened humanism”. Animal rights advances the most radical idea to ever land on human ears: animals are not ours to exploit as food, clothing, resources, commodities, data, or “entertainment.” They exist for their own purposes, not ours. But animal liberation is simply unthinkable on its own terns, rather than as part and parcel of a larger revolutionary project that integrates human, animal, and Earth liberation as one inseparable struggle.

Thus, we must not only educate and agitate, we must form a social movement that combines the merely partial struggles for social justice, autonomy, animal rights, and ecology in a global, revolutionary politics of total liberation. As with all revolutions, animals will not gain “rights” (or whatever a possible future society calls inviolable and inalienable moral and legal protections against abuse and exploitation) because oppressors suddenly see the light, but rather because enough people become enlightened and learn how to rock the structures of power, to shake them until new social arrangements emerge.

Animal liberation requires that people transcend the complacent boundaries of humanism – however “radical” and “progressive” – to effect a qualitative leap in ethical consideration, one that moves the moral bar from reason and language to sentience and subjectivity. Humans must not only change their views toward one another, a massive undertaking in itself, they must  also recognize that the species boundaries separating human from nonhuman animals are as arbitrary as those of race and sex. Animal liberation is possible only as total liberation that is advanced as part and parcel of a radical social movement and realizes moral learning processes in the institutional networks of a truly democratic post-capitalist society.

Animal liberation expands on classic humanist values such as rights, democracy, equality, justice, and peace, as it broadens inclusivity, expands moral value and legal protection, and deepens community. In taking the quantum jump beyond humanism, animal liberation does not “trivialize” human rights (as bioethicist Arthur Kaplan claims), but rather  frees the universal and progressive aspects of rights from the ignorance, bias, prejudice, and discrimination of “rational” and “enlightened” human beings. Humanism is nothing but a tribalism writ large, applying to the artificially created chasm between “Us” and “Them,” between human and nonhuman animals, a conceptual dualism that underpins the vicious and violent system of species apartheid.

As difficult, bloody, and tenacious the battle to win gains in human rights and equality has been throughout modern Western history, we must recognize that every justice struggle to the present has been relatively easy. Now it gets hard.

The patterns of history cannot be changed by the vain hopes of pacifists who believe that Divine intervention or moral magic will make animal liberation – which threatens human psychological, social, and economic structures in profound ways – will be achieved peacefully, without shedding a drop of blood, through reason, compassion, and persuasion. Far more plausibly, especially as social and ecological crises heat up to fever pitch, we are headed for a profound, lengthy, and likely violent war – a war of human against nonhuman animals, of liberationists against exploiters, and of the corporate-state complex against militants and dissenters of any kind.

The struggle to end human supremacy is the most difficult liberation battle of all because speciesism is virtually primordial and universal. Speciesism was arguably the first form of hierarchical domination and a key model and blueprint for slavery, racism, sexism, heterosexism, ablism, and fascism. Speciesist cultures have grown in scale and degree throughout human history and its poisonous roots of human supremacism have spread throughout the globe.

Power, domination, violence, and extermination are not dynamics limited to Western culture or the modern world, as if there were a utopian past or radical alternative to recover. While wary  of biological reductionism, it is nevertheless evident that power pathologies are deeply embedded in the long social and biological history of humans, and our ancient Australopithecine and primate ancestors. As appalled the “monster” in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1818), the history of humanity is a tale of violence, warfare, genocide, destruction, such that a war of extermination was first unleashed, quite likely, on a fellow human species, Homo neanderthalensis. Then, after a 15,000 year long pogrom designed to eliminate Neanderthals, humans hunted large mammals (megafauna) into extinction on every continent they roamed.

Humans slaughtered remaining hunting and gathering tribes, waged wider warfare against one another, enslaved captive populations, and from Romans and Mayans to Christians and the US, they blanketed the Earth with invading armies whose numbers rose from thousands to millions to billions, exceeding ecological limits the entire way and paying the price with every crash and collapse.

Fueled by greed, bloodlust, cruelty, orgies of killing, and insatiable appetites for power, the Roman, Greek, Mayan empires are but variations on the global Human Empire – the tyrannical reign of Homo rapiens – such that one species on a path of runaway growth and expansion has colonized a fecund planet capable of generating tens of millions of species.

The pathologies of power and are not limited to Western societies or to the modern world, such that there is some significant utopian past or cultural alternative to recover. While social institutions such as capitalism magnify the worst aspects of human behavior, a violent dominator complex is not wholly accidental to the human species itself, which, but for rare exceptions, is a violent, destructive, and imperialist animal. Human beings have  proven incapable of learning from past disasters, and unable to relinquish their arrogance and delusions.

Animal liberation is the most difficult battle we  have ever fought because it requires widespread agreement to abandon the privileges of power and what people widely perceive to be their hard-won or  God-given rights to exploit nonhuman animals and the entire Earth for their purposes.

To change these attitudes, and the systems they inform, is to change the very nerve center of human consciousness and existence.

That is our task no more and no less.

Dr. Steven Best is NIO’s Senior Editor of Total Liberation.  Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Dr. 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 booksover 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 frequent 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 Russia to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.