Archive for speciesism

The Big Fat Wicked Lie People Tell About Animals

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

Excerpt from Animal Rights Human Wrongs ~by Vernon Coleman


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

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


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


Animals Can Communicate


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



Capable Of Love


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



Powerful Memories


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




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


Altruistic Behavior


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


Vanity And Self Consciousness


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


Artistic Animals


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


Smarter, Kinder, Better


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


Enjoying The Suffering


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


Animals As Carers


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


A Sense Of Fun


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


The Barbaric Abuse Of Sensitive Creatures


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


Better Than Animals?


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


Animals As Teachers


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


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


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


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


The wonders are unending.

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

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



Prayer for Liberation of Brother and Sister Animals

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

24 December 2010


May all sentient beings in the animal realm

subject to unbearable pain in labs throughout the world

be free from suffering.

May alternatives to animal experimentation and testing

be used immediately.

May Bodhicitta fill the hearts of those who imprison them.


May all sentient beings from the animal realm

who suffer endless days, months, years

locked in tiny cages unable to move, be

filled with peace and calm.

May the many billions waiting in slaughterhouse

lines be free of fear.

May the hearts of those who work in abattoirs

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

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


May no animal be afraid or depressed.

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

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

find shelter, plentiful food & water.

May there be liberation for those

tortured for fur, entertainment or who are hunted.


May those who believe they are superior

to our brother & sister animals

develop perfect equanimity.

And may they realise in their hearts

that all sentient beings possess Buddha nature

And they are not ours to kill or exploit.


May the many billions of land and sea dwelling sentient beings

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

be free of suffering

May they experience complete and perfect enlightenment,

through the virtue of my efforts and prayers.

May I be a voice for the voiceless.

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

live together in harmony, peace and equanimity

and achieve perfect Enlightenment quickly.


Like a bird…

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.


Walking with cheetahs… the big cats of the Kalahari who are man’s best friend

Posted in wildlife with tags , , on November 13, 2010 by carmen4thepets

A Nomadic tribesman of the San people strides across the hot ­Kalahari Desert — in the company of a cheetah he has helped to tame. Though they’re killers in the wild, these big cats are ­surprisingly easy to domesticate.

The animals in these striking pictures, taken in the Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary in Namibia, were hand-reared from cubs after their mother was shot by poachers five years ago.

As a result, the three cheetahs — a male and two females — are happy to trot next to their handlers, men from the San tribe, on their daily three-hour walk across the desert.

Taking a stroll: A Nomadic tribesman walks side by side in the company of a cheetah that he has helped to tame

Fast learner: A cheetah picks up tips from a Bushman on how to hunt in the grasses that fringe the desert

After stretching their legs, the cats — who can run 100 metres in 4.5 seconds — even play ‘fetch’ when the tribesmen throw bits of rope for them to chase.

The cheetahs are so tame you can tickle them under the chin, and they drink water from the sinks at the home of 35-year-old Marlice Van Vuuren, who set up the sanctuary in 2007.

Walkies: A tribesman and an orphaned cheetah take an evening stroll together

She now lives there full-time with a team of helpers and employs around 20 tribesmen to help care for a range of rescued and orphaned animals, including lions, leopards, wild dogs and baboons.

As babies, the cheetahs snuggled up in homemade sleeping bags and played with toy mice. Now they’re adults, they still come into Marlice’s house to watch daytime TV — before going off to hunt at night.

Extraordinary harmony: The cheetahs are so tame that you can tickle them under the chin, and they even play ‘fetch’

Endangered species: Both the cheetah and the San tribespeople of Namibia are dwindling in numbers, but perhaps they can help each to survive in a hostile environment

Tragically, the cats are an endangered species with only 12,000 to 15,000 left in the wild. The San tribe — once known as Kalahari Bushmen — who care for these orphans, are endangered too, with fewer than 35,000 left in Namibia.

No one knows how long the cheetahs or the San people can exist in this wild landscape. But for now, they live in extraordinary harmony.

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.


Posted in animal rights with tags , , on March 31, 2010 by carmen4thepets

“In all the round world of Utopia there is no meat. There used to be. But now we cannot stand the thought of slaughterhouses. And, in a population that is all educated, and at about the same level of physical refinement, it is practically impossible to find anyone who will hew a dead ox or pig … I can still remember as a boy the rejoicings over the closing of the last slaughterhouse.”
— HG Wells. A Modern Utopia

“In all the round world of Utopia there is no meat. There used to be. But now we cannot stand the thought of slaughterhouses. And, in a population that is all educated, and at about the same level of physical refinement, it is practically impossible to find anyone who will hew a dead ox or pig … I can still remember as a boy the rejoicings over the closing of the last slaughterhouse.”– HG Wells. A Modern Utopia

“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist

“What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit to their cruelty.”
— Leo Tolstoy, author
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
“To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.”
— Mahatma Gandhi, statesman and philosopher
“Our task must be to free ourselves . . . by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
— Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel 1921
“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
— Pythagoras, mathematician
“What is it that should trace the insuperable line? …The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
“The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.”
— Jeremy Bentham, philosopher
“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
— Thomas Edison, inventor
“To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime.”
— Romain Rolland, author, Nobel 1915
“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”
— Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President
“If a group of beings from another planet were to land on Earth — beings who considered themselves as superior to you as you feel yourself to be to other animals — would you concede them the rights over you that you assume over other animals?”
— George Bernard Shaw, playwright, Nobel 1925
“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”
— Alice Walker
“In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.”
— Isaac Bashevis Singer, author, Nobel 1978
“Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
— Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President

Frequently Asked Questions About Veganism

Posted in veganism with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2010 by carmen4thepets

About Animals, Health and Nutrition, Ethics and Religion, and Going Vegan


Why should we care about animals?

Most people believe that unnecessary suffering is bad. Other animals — particularly vertebrates — suffer physical pain and even emotional stress in much the same way humans do. Because of this, we should take animals’ suffering seriously. Because animal products are not a necessary part of our diet, becoming vegan is one of the most effective ways to reduce animals’ suffering.

For more, see Beyond Might Makes Right and Animal Liberation by Peter Singer.

Why should people sacrifice convenience, cravings, and cost for the sake of an animal?

We claim to be moral beings who do not act merely to satisfy hedonistic impulses. We would not want to live in a society where people were free to satisfy all their cravings freely, where the strongest could cause suffering for the weaker if they wanted to do so. Likewise, how can we justify satisfying all our cravings for animal products, when animals must suffer in order to provide them?

Happily, there is nothing inherently less satisfying or more expensive in a vegan diet. Beans and rice are less expensive than beef or pork; heating up a Boca Burger is less expensive than buying a Big Mac; and most people find vegan food to be as tasty as non-vegan food. Even if this were not the case, most vegans don’t consume animals or animal products because they do not want to be the cause of needless suffering, regardless of the convenience, taste, or cost. Living an ethically consistent life is more important.

Won’t the animals just die anyway? And if we don’t eat the animals, won’t they overrun the world?

We don’t just happen to kill and eat animals to save them from dying a natural death. We breed more than 9 billion farm animals in the U.S. each year because of the consumer demand for animal products. If we stop buying animal products, animal industries will have no incentive to keep breeding these animals.

Why should I concern myself with non-human animal suffering when there are so many people suffering in the world?

We each have limited time, energy, and money to offer. The causes and cures of human suffering are complex, often distant, and difficult to address, especially by an individual. The causes and cures of animal suffering are often simpler and all around us. Making the choice to adopt a vegan diet can have a far-reaching effect on reducing suffering in the world.

Peter Singer writes in Animal Liberation:

Among the factors that make it difficult to arouse public concern about animals, perhaps the hardest to overcome is the assumption that “human beings come first” and that any problem about animals cannot be comparable, as a serious moral or political issue, to the problems about humans. A number of things can be said about this assumption. First, it is in itself an indication of speciesism. How can anyone who has not made a thorough study of the topic possibly know that the problem is less serious than problems of human suffering? One can claim to know this only if on assumes that animals really do not matter, and that however much they suffer, their suffering is less important than the suffering of humans. But pain is pain, and the importance of preventing unnecessary pain and suffering does not diminish because the being that suffers is not a member of our species. What would we think of someone who said that “whites come first” and that therefore poverty in Africa does not pose as serious a problem as poverty in Europe?

It is true that many problems in the world deserve our time and energy. Famine and poverty …all are major issues, and who can say which is the most important? yet once we put aside speciesist biases, we can see that the oppression of nonhumans by humans ranks somewhere along with these issues. The suffering that we inflict on nonhuman beings can be extreme, and the numbers involved are gigantic … [and] should cause at least as much concern, especially since this suffering is so unnecessary and could easily be stopped if we wanted to stop it. Most reasonable people want to prevent war, racial inequality, poverty, and unemployment; the problem is that we have been trying to prevent these things for years, and now we have to admit that, for the most part, we don’t really know how to do it. By comparison, the reduction of the suffering of nonhuman animals at the hands of humans will be relatively easy, once human beings set themselves to do it.

In any case, the idea that “humans come first” is more often used as an excuse for not doing anything about either human or nonhuman animals than as a genuine choice between incompatible alternatives. For the truth is that there is no incompatibility here … there is nothing to stop those who devote their time an energy to human problems from joining the boycott of the products of agribusiness cruelty. It takes no more time to be a vegetarian than to eat animal flesh. In fact … those who claim to care about the well-being of human beings and the preservation of our environment should become vegetarians for that reason alone. They would thereby increase the amount of grain available to feed people everywhere, reduce pollution, save water and energy, and cease contributing to the clearing of forests; moreover, since a vegetarian diet is cheaper than one based on meat dishes, they would have more money available to devote to famine relief, population control, or whatever social or political cause they thought most urgent. … [W]hen nonvegetarians say that “human problems come first,” I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.” Nobel Laureate, Romain Rolland wrote in Jean Christophe: To one whose mind is free, there is something even more intolerable in the suffering of animals than in the sufferings of humans. For with the latter, it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the person who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any person were to refer to it, they would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime. That alone is the justification of all that humans may suffer. It cries vengeance upon all the human race. If God exists and tolerates it, it cries vengeance upon God.

What about free range?

A growing number of people are looking to “free-range” products as an alternative to factory farmed animal products. Eggs (and poultry) may be labeled as “free-range” if they have USDA-certified access to the outdoors. No other criteria, such as environmental quality, size of the outside area, number of birds, or space per bird, are included in this term. Typically, free-range hens are debeaked at the hatchery, have only 1 to 2 square feet of floor space per bird, and — if the hens can go outside — must compete with many other hens for access to a small exit from the shed, leading to a muddy strip saturated with droppings. Although chickens can live up to 12 years, free-range hens are hauled to slaughter the same as battery-caged hens, after a year or two. Free-range male chicks are trashed at birth, just as they are in factory farms. Although free-range conditions may be an improvement over factory-farm conditions, they are by no means free of cruelty.

The Associated Press reported on March 11, 1998:

Free-range chickens conjure up in some consumers minds pictures of contented fowl strolling around the barnyard, but the truth is, all a chicken grower needs to do is give the birds some access to the outdoorswhether the chickens decide to take a gambol or stay inside with hundreds or thousands of other birds, under government rules growers are free to label them free-range.

As all free-range animals are still viewed as objects to be killed for food, they are subject to abusive handling, transport, and slaughter. Free-range animals, like all animals used for their milk and eggs, are still slaughtered at a fraction of their normal life expectancy.

For more information, visit United Poultry Concerns

Do you think it is wrong to keep an animal for a pet?

In terms of reducing suffering, there is nothing inherently wrong in living with another animal. In terms of the specifics, it depends. If you were to take an animal from a shelter, you would be giving that individual a happy home and a good life (assuming you would be good to them). If you were to get an animal from a pet store, you would be supporting and expanding the breeding of animals for pets — which would, most likely, increase the overall suffering in the world.

Vegan Outreach does not take a position on whether dogs and, especially, cats should be vegan. People who have tried vegan diets with their pets have provided us with information indicating that, if appropriately planned, many (and possibly most) dogs and cats may do well on a vegan diet — but some cats do not.

What about animal experimentation?

Two Vegan Outreach philosophy pieces touch on this: Beyond and Theory. You are not required to be anti-vivsection to stop eating meat. Regardless of one’s views on this or any other issue, you can reduce the amount of suffering in the world by ceasing to eat meat.

Health and Nutrition

Is a vegan diet healthy?

As with any diet, a vegan diet requires planning. However, when properly planned, a vegan diet can be considerably healthier than a traditional American diet. In its 1996 position paper on vegetarian diets, the American Dietetic Association reported that vegan and vegetarian diets can significantly reduce one’s risk of contracting heart disease, colon and lung cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity, and a number of other debilitating conditions.

Cows’ milk contains ideal amounts of fat and protein for young calves, but far too much for humans. And eggs are higher in cholesterol than any other food, making them a leading contributor to cardiovascular disease.

Vegan foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans, are low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are rich in fiber and nutrients. Vegans can get all the protein they need from legumes (e.g., beans, tofu, peanuts) and grains (e.g., rice, corn, whole wheat breads and pastas); calcium from broccoli, kale, collard greens, tofu, fortified juices and soymilks; iron from chickpeas, spinach, pinto beans, and soy products; and B12 from fortified foods or supplements. With planning, a vegan diet can provide all the nutrients we were taught as schoolchildren came only from animal products.

For more information, see our Health section; specifically, Staying a Healthy Vegan

Ethics and Religion

Why is it wrong to eat meat?

It’s not a question of being “right” or “wrong.” If one wants fewer animals to suffer and die, then one can stop supporting such practices by not eating animal products.

Does religion play a role in the vegan community?

Some vegans find that their religious views support their ethical commitment. For other vegans, religion has nothing to do with their commitment.

For more, visit the Biospirituality site and the Christian Vegetarian Association

Doesn’t the Bible say we should eat meat?

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are required to eat animals. Just because the Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid something doesn’t make it right. For example:

When your brother is reduced to poverty and sells himself to you, you shall not use him to work for you as a slave…. Such slaves as you have, male or female, shall come from the nations round about you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy the children of those who have settled and lodge with you and such of their family as are born in the land. These may become your property, and you may leave them to your sons after you; you may use them as slaves permanently.

Leviticus 25: 39-46

There are many different interpretations of the Bible. Among them is the view that Eden was the state-of-being that God desired for humanity, and in this state, Adam and Eve ate no animal products.

There are plenty of devout Christians and Jews who are vegetarian and vegan, and most theologians would agree that a benevolent God is not going to condemn someone for being compassionate to animals.

For a collection of religious perspectives, visit The Christian Vegetarian Association and Religion and Vegetarianism

Going Vegan

Isn’t it hard to go vegan?

It can be, especially if you hold yourself to too high a standard. But the important thing is to make changes you feel comfortable with, at your own pace. While reducing your consumption of animal products completely may be ideal, any reduction is a step in the right direction. The vegan lifestyle is an ongoing progression. Everyone should go at their own pace and remember that all steps towards veganism are positive. It is most important to focus on avoiding the products for which animals are bred and slaughtered. Animal by-products will exist as long as there is a demand for primary meat and dairy products. When it comes to avoiding items that contain small amounts of by-products, vegans must decide for themselves where to draw the line. Some vegans will adjust their level of abstinence according to the circumstances. For example, as a consumer, you might make sure the bread you buy is not made with whey; but as a dinner guest, you may accept bread without asking to see the ingredients. These types of compromises can actually hasten the spread of veganism, in that they help counter the attitude that it’s very hard to be vegan.

Isn’t being vegan expensive?

There is nothing inherently more expensive about a vegan diet. If a person wants to replicate his/her previous diet with animal analogous, then yes, it can be more expensive to buy veggie burgers, prepared seitan, veganrella, Rice Dream Supreme, etc. But pasta, beans, potatoes, breads, fruits and vegetables are all generally less expensive than the animal products of similar nutritional value.

What about organic?

Although ‘organic’ foods may be preferred for many of the same reasons that vegan foods are (animal welfare, environmental quality, and health), a food is usually considered vegan regardless of whether or not it is organic.

What about honey and silk?

Again, it depends on one’s definition of vegan. Insects are animals, and so insect products, such as honey and silk, are often not considered vegan. Many vegans, however, are not opposed to using insect products, because they do not believe insects are conscious of pain. Moreover, even if insects were conscious of pain, it’s not clear that the production of honey involves any more pain for insects than the production of most vegetables or other sweeteners, since the harvesting and transportation of all crops involves insect deaths. The question remains a matter of scientific debate and personal choice. When cooking or labeling food for vegans — particularly vegans you don’t know — it’s best to be on the safe side and not include honey. As for vegan advocacy, we think it’s best to avoid the issue as a defining one.

Vegan Advocacy & Activism

How can I get involved in vegan advocacy?

99% of the animals killed in the U.S. are farm animals. Each year more than 9 billion animals are raised in factory farms and killed for food in this country. While animal agriculture is certainly not the only form of animal abuse, it is by far the largest. If 5% of Americans were to stop eating animals, far more suffering would be prevented than if we completely abolished every other form of animal exploitation in the U.S. As Gary Francione of the Rutgers Animal Law Clinic has said, “If you can help ten people to go vegetarian in a year, you have done more good than most animal rights organizations.” Moreover, promoting veganism has the additional benefits of reducing human disease and environmental problems.

For more, see Chart depicting number of animals slaughtered for human use

How can I start a group at my college / in my area?

Perhaps the best advice I can offer about starting a group is to give personal examples. When I took over Students for Animal Rights at the University of Illinois (an established group), I did the general advertising — posters around campus, having a table at the activities fair with a sign-up-sheet, calling people who had left their names, etc. I prepared a speech for the first meeting, which was to a packed room. By the third meeting, none of the new people still attended.

Ultimately, how we built a group was through activities on campus. We met people while tabling, while leafletting, at protests, and at Ingrid Newkirk’s talks. What I draw from this is to not worry about organizational aspects, and rather do things — specifically, leaflet and table.

There are some advantages to being a recognized group. At the college level, you might be able to get funding (which can help bring in a speaker and print copies of Why Vegan), and at a higher level, tax-exempt status can be useful after a certain point. But some groups spend an often inordinate amount of time on bureaucratic, fundraising, and membership-building activities.

To a large extent, this parallels our experience with Vegan Outreach. We spent our time scrounging for money to print copies of Why Vegan (which, at the time, we collated, stapled, and folded ourselves), and Jack traveled around the country leafletting. In his travels, he met many interested people. From these meetings grew the network of activists and donors who now comprise Vegan Outreach and help to distribute hundreds of thousands to Why Vegans every year.

So the short answer is, in my opinion, the best way to start a group is to do things — leaflet, table, display Why Vegans at many places (our booklet holder has a space for writing in a “local contact,” etc. The rest can follow from this.