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 has been one of the most dynamic and important political forces on the planet. It is not for no reason that the FBI has branded the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) (along with the Earth Liberation Front) the top “domestic terrorist” threat in the US. 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 evolved into a potent global force of progressive change.
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. 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 the domestication of animals at the dawn of agricultural society is central to 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. On its own, however, the animal liberation movement cannot possibly bring about the end of animal exploitation. It can only do this in alliance with progressive social causes, anti-capitalist struggles, and radical environmental movements.
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 advocacy movement as a whole 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 greatly from discussions with the Left and progressive social movements. Further, environmentalists can never achieve their goals without addressing the main cause of global warming – factory farming – and grasping how water pollution, rainforest destruction, desertification, resource depletion and other key problems are shaped principally or significantly from global meat production and animal exploitation.
We assert the need for more expansive visions and politics on all sides of the human/animal/Earth liberation equation, and we call for new forms of dialogue, learning, and strategic alliances. Human, animal, and Earth liberation are interrelated projects that must be fought for as one, as we recognize that veganism is central to peace, ecology, sustainability, nonviolence, and the healing of the major crises afflicting this planet.
Thus, we must replace partial concepts of revolutionary change, such as involved the liberation of humans, animals, or the Earth, in favor of a far broader, deeper, more complex, and more inclusive concept of “total revolution.” We must replace the critique of any one system of domination with a critique of hierarchy as a systemic phenomenon, as we recognize that capitalism is a metastasizing cancer eating away at the planet and that a viable program for total liberation necessarily seeks to replace global capitalism with decentralized democracy and a dismantling of hierarchy in all forms.
PLEASE REMEMBER: Because states everywhere are cracking down on escalating forms of dissent, protest, and counter-attack, and free speech itself is increasingly imperiled under the fascist conditions that prevail in police states such as the UK and the US, this blog recognizes that a crucial aspect of the total liberation struggle is to protect what frail rights still exist and to support all political prisoners across the spectrum of liberation, from Leonard Peltier to the SHAC7 to Daniel McGowan.
Note: For a deeper understanding of total liberation, see below. Click on the accompanying links for the complete essays.
Rethinking Revolution: Animal Liberation, Human Liberation, and the Future of the Left
By Steve Best
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.
The Killing Fields of South Africa: Eco-Wars, Species Apartheid, and Total Liberation
By Steve Best
As bad as black Africans had it throughout the era of social apartheid, species apartheid is an even more oppressive system. This is because a significantly greater number of animals (dying by the billions) are killed each year, the methods of exploitation typically are more brutal, and there is far less outcry over their suffering and death. Although blacks were violently repressed and many were beaten, tortured, and killed, they were not bred, farmed, confined, and exploited for hunters to shoot down in a demented drama of “sport” and human mastery of nature. While jailed and beaten, blacks were not captured and sent to laboratories for experimentation, cut into pieces and consumed for meat, nor dismembered and sold for jewelry and paperweights. Although black victims of apartheid were murdered by the thousands, over 40 billion animals die each year at the hands of human oppressors in various systems of exploitation, from slaughterhouses and fur farms…
Pacifism or Animals: Which Do You Love More? A Critique of Lee Hall, Friends of Animals, and the Franciombe Effect in the New Abolitionist Movement
By Steve Best and Jason Miller
We need the largest and most systemic and inclusive vision and strategy possible, one that fears no consequence of logic and is attuned to historical precedents. We need the most uncompromising, militant form of politics we can muster or we shall all just be washed away by the tsunami of corporate repression and buried by the chaos and violence of ecological disaster rumbling on the horizon.
Averting the China Syndrome: Response to Our Critics and the Devotees of Fundamentalist Pacifism
By Steve Best and Jason Miller
We too seek a peaceful society, especially in the way humans treat other animals. Yet, we do not let ideals blind us to realities, and from our methodological positions, we also believe in (1) the need for, (2) the legitimacy of, and (3) strategic value of illegal actions, sabotage, coercive tactics, and sometimes “violence” as in the use of physical force with intent to cause bodily harm (e.g., as armed Rwandan soldiers protect elephants against poachers).
We don’t absolutely commit to pacifism or non-pacifism in the abstract, but rather apply what seems the best strategy for a given political situation. As contextualists, pluralists, and pragmatists, we look to the context to understand what is violent or nonviolent, we advance a number of resistance strategies, and for the animals’ sake, and we take principles that work in action over flowery ideals and fancy lounge chair philosophies any day. A non-pacifist is someone who sometimes allows the need and value for violence, as do we. We assert as a general principle that violence is the last, not the first, resort for social change.
Homo rapiens be damned: Savagery is not programmed into our DNA
By Jason Miller
Humanity, past and present, is filled with examples of compassionate, courageous, and decent human beings, clearly indicating that Homo sapiens remain extant, that savagery is not programmed into our DNA and that developing a more “natural equilibrium” with our surrounding environment is within the realm of possibility.
However, those who wish to shape social and human evolution in such a way that Homo rapiens become endangered, and eventually make their way to the species’ graveyard of extinction, need to realize that they are not attending a tea party. This is a war–philosophically, psychologically and physically. If humanity is going to “become good,” those who want to make it happen need to enter the fray.
Final Note: While we are vegan and animal liberationist in our worldview, we are willing to work with liberationists, radicals, and anti-capitalists of all stripes, provided they respect and support our pursuit of animal liberation.