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How PETA’s Chinese “Dog Leather” Campaign Hurts Dogs (and Other Animals)

 An investigation of the dog leather trade in China showed horrifying abuse. But did it help dogs?

An investigation of the dog leather trade in China showed horrifying abuse. But did it help dogs?

How PETA’s CHINESE “Dog Leather” Campaign Hurts Dogs (and Other Animals)

The dog leather campaign fails the animals in three ways: by promoting racism, by promoting speciesism, and by promoting inaction in the face of violence. Here's what we can do to change that. 

By Wayne Hsiung

[Note: a friend who used to work at PETA wrote to me expressing concern that this post would inevitably be perceived as an attack on PETA and its supporters, and that I should therefore move the below words to the top of the post. I think this is good advice -- particularly since the issues I am discussing in this article extend far beyond a single organization or campaign. You can read a more in-depth account of the problem in a three-part series here. Anyways, here are the words: 

This is not an attack on PETA. Some of my hardest working and most dedicated friends work at PETA. And PETA’s founder, Ingrid Newkirk, lives a Spartan lifestyle, devotes every waking moment to animals, and has shown true genius in understanding the crucial role of disruption and provocation in building movements. PETA is also one of the only nonprofits that has consistently shown support for grassroots activists. Rather, this is a heartfelt request for us to collectively do better...

I'd also like to emphasize that I don't think there was necessarily any intentional racism on the part of PETA employees. The issues set out here, in fact, are cultural and systemic in origin. And I know many PETA employees who are fiercely devoted to the right of every animal -- human or non-human -- to be free from discrimination or violence. But anyways, on to the blog post... ]

I’m crying, furious, and filled with a near-unbearable feeling of shame. Because, once again, my people are killing dogs.

PETA unveiled a horrifying investigation of “dog leather” in China yesterday. And the video is devastating. A little brown dog, shaking in terror, is dragged out of a filthy, dark room. She backs up against a wall and looks up in fear, as if to beg the man who is dragging her, “Please, sir, don’t hurt me. What did I do to you?” But he ignores her entreaties, lifts up a huge wooden club, and begins to smash her head with horrifying ferocity. The little dog cries out. But she is small, weak, and defenseless. Her brutalizer is massive, strong, and armed. All she can do is shriek in terror as he bludgeons her head over and over and over again. Soon she collapses to the ground. Two men cut the little dog’s throat and throw her into a huge bucket of water, where numerous corpses have already been tossed. They don’t seem to bother with determining whether she’s actually dead, so she may very well have drowned in a pool of her own blood.

 Little Lisa. 

Little Lisa. 

The narrator tells us that many of these dogs are stolen from their families on the city streets. I can’t help but wonder… what if this were my little Lisa? What is the difference between the little brown dog I am seeing on the screen and the one I hug every night before I go to bed? The comparison is almost unbelievable. Just a glimpse into that nightmare brings my world crashing to the ground. Lisa, the light of my life, my favorite person, my happy child in a world so often filled with desolation, sadness, and pain…. Lisa, dragged to such a hellish and violent place? Impossible.

But it is possible, as the PETA investigation shows. Someone just like my little girl -- just as innocent, just as loving, and just as deserving of safety, happiness, and freedom -- is being brutalized at this very moment. 

So why am I disgusted… with the campaign?

1. The campaign plays on racism to draw support, and undermines our attempts to inspire Chinese activists to take action.

The PETA video, like so many other campaigns against Chinese practices, relies on an American-sounding narrator describing horrible abuses by the Chinese. It has the feel of a nature documentary, with dirty, violent, animalistic Asians contrasted with the calm, compassionate, English-speaking narrator.   

The video’s headline is the “Chinese Dog Leather industry.” Yet when was the last time an investigation of farms in the United States targeted Americans by decrying the “Brutal American Pig Flesh Industry?” 

The campaign decries the lack of animal welfare laws in China. Yet the US’s animal welfare laws are toothless and filled with exceptions advocated by industry, e.g. the wholesale removal of all birds from the requirements of the Humane Slaughter Act.

One of the thousands of dogs rescued from slaughter by grassroots activists in China. 

And the campaign fails to include a positive Asian face to counter-balance the horrible acts of cruelty. Yet the video ignores the fact that, as a product of PETA-Asia, Chinese activists almost certainly played a role in this investigation. Or the fact that recent grassroots mobilizations have inspired countless Chinese to travel great distances to block trucks delivering dogs to meat factories -- at significant personal risk in a nation where civil disobedience is often met with violent oppression. The movement has saved thousands of dogs from slaughter through these courageous acts of nonviolent direct action. When did we last see any similar action taken in the United States for the millions of dogs killed in experiments or “shelters” including, distressingly, many thousands killed by PETA itself? Those Chinese, it seems, could attack “barbaric Americans” (and “barbaric animal activists”) for their heartlessness, cruelty, and cowardice toward dogs.

All of that, however, is ignored. And with such a biased framing, it’s no surprise that the public’s reaction to the video is filled with hate against the Chinese. One of the top comments (approved by over 200 others) is as simple as it is antagonistic: “I hate China.” Many people state that they will boycott the entire nation for the faults of a few.  “[E]veryone should boycott chink made goods!” As usual, the strangest attacks are made by those who decry the Chinese as “not human”: “The more I learn about China the more I have come to believe that culture is for the most part not civilized - in fact, not even human at all,” says one. “Disgusting China. Filled with monsters, not humans,” says another. Why is being “non-human” used as an insult among advocates for non-human animal rights?

Perhaps most troubling are the many comments endorsing racial violence. Someone replies by advocating a nuclear attack: “China is the worst country in the world… nuclear bomb please!” Another commenter suggests replacing the dogs with Chinese: “lets have some chinamen hats… made from their mean slant eyed mother fuckers skins!” It’s enough to make even a fairly well-adjusted Chinese person, such as myself, a little shaken. What are the people on the streets of America actually thinking about the Chinese? What are they actually thinking about me?

You might reject this as paranoia, but discrimination is part of our historical experience as Chinese. We remember that a shocking 68% of Americans express unapologetically negative sentiments towards us, including a recently-viral, profanity-laced anti-Chinese rant in SF. We remember that Vincent Chin, blamed for the declining auto industry, was brutally bludgeoned to death for the crime of being born different. (The men who murdered him did not receive any jail time.) We remember that ludicrous rumors involving our integrity and loyalty continue to be spread even by the flagship “progressive” media outlets of our day, such as The New York Times or ABC. And we remember that far more Asians have been killed by the US government in the past 50 years than the people of any other continent. And we are understandably concerned.

Campaigns such as PETA’s, which incite terrifyingly-violent rhetoric, contribute to this fear. And perhaps the worst part of all is that the animals -- including those poor dogs in rural China -- are being undermined in the process. Because we know that, to effect change, we have to start in local communities. This is not just ethical but effective; sociological research shows us that our ability to impact those outside of our local communities is weak. We have to find Chinese supporters if we want to save the animals of China. We have to inspire people of all nations and continents, and all cultures and creeds, to solve the global problem of animal exploitation.

We have to represent the world to change the world.

At Direct Action Everywhere, we avoid ethnic targeting for exactly this reason. There are countless Chinese who have cried just as many tears, and felt just as much anger, over the murder of dogs and other animals. There are Chinese people risking their lives to help animals in need. There’s a Chinese kid out there -- who has faced despair, bullying and violence himself -- who is just as desperate as any one of us to save that little brown dog in the video. To reject these potential allies would be a disservice to the movement. To allow a Chinese kid with a big heart for animals to be subjected to racist threats is an incredible betrayal to the animals we represent. We simply have to do better.

2. The campaign is speciesist, i.e. it privileges dogs over other animals, and thereby reinforces the notion that human beings can arbitrarily decide which animals matter.

But what of public support? The dog leather campaign has mobilized a truly astounding level of public attention and outrage. In less than one day, PETA’s video has been watched by nearly a million people and shared by over 50,000. Many say that focusing on industries such as dog leather, marginal though they may be, is strategic because it is the “low hanging fruit” -- easy to garner opposition to, and just as easy to destroy.  

This confuses the basic function of the activist. We are not here to be popular. We are not here to cater to existing views. We are here to challenge and change those views. And focusing thoughtlessly on a single species, based on human perceptions of special worth, reinforces the species prejudice that feeds the entire system of animal abuse.

 Shooting stink bombs at foreigners may give Westerners self-satisfaction. But does it help whales? 

Shooting stink bombs at foreigners may give Westerners self-satisfaction. But does it help whales? 

Anti-whaling campaigns are perhaps the greatest example of this. As the Japanese activist Tetsuhiko Endo points out, with a global budget of $25 million, anti-whaling NGOs (most notably, Sea Shepherd) are nearly as large as the entire whaling industry, which has annual revenues of $31 million. Yet whaling levels are twice as high as they were in 1990. Over that same time period, violence against other animals has continued its rapid increase in the very countries that have been most heavily targeted by anti-whaling campaigns, including Norway and Japan.

There is irresistible logic to this. When I was a child and first learned that dogs were being killed for food in China, I was horrified. I screamed and cried and begged my parents to stop my friends from being murdered. But they quickly dismissed my concerns as performing whiteness. “Americans do the same. Don’t you love bacon and baloney?”

As I child, I rejected this comparison. But in my adulthood, I now recognize that my parents were right. If we are going to break the species frontier, and grant rights to certain animals, there is no logical reason to stop with a single species. And if we are going to deny rights to one species, on the basis of their non-human status, who are we to object to the abuse of other animals?

The Japanese, Chinese, and others can see this logic as well, and immediately dismiss our single issue campaigns as hypocrisy, or worse yet, cultural imperialism. Local Asian activists who otherwise might be supportive of our efforts, in turn, are dissuaded from joining the movement for fear of being decried as hypocritical race traitors. The losers in all of this? Cultural understanding. Movement solidarity. And above all, the animals.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge dog lover. They were my entry into the world of animal rights. I am therefore the first person to say that dogs can be a window into the bigger picture of animal rights. However, to effectively serve as such a window, we have to give the public -- and indeed, animal activists, too -- a gateway into anti-speciesism. We have to hammer home the notion that concern for dogs without similar concern for animals killed by Westerners is both racist and speciesist. We have to have the courage to push our dog-loving, whale-loving, orangutan-loving friends to move beyond the low-hanging fruit -- marginal campaigns that the public is already willing to offer token support to (since they’re not involved in the abuse at issue anyways) -- and toward the root of the problem: the mentality of human supremacy. A mentality that people in our own neighborhoods are complicit in, most obviously, in who (not what, but who) we choose to eat. 

{Note: To PETA’s credit, the video does mention cows specifically. And the petition asks viewers to pledge to boycott all leather, not just the tiny amount of leather from dogs. But the campaign otherwise makes the abuse of dogs in China the subject of special ire, e.g. by emphasizing in bold type, “There's no easy way to tell whose skin you're really in.” But why does it matter whose skin you’re in, as long as it’s someone else’s skin?]

3. The campaign asks too little from us, when we have so much more to give

We need not travel great distances to find horrific abuse of animals. It's happening right next door. 

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the campaign, however, is that it asks so little of the online activists who rush to support it. The action page has two options: donate or sign a petition. But what in heaven’s name does this do for the dogs who are being brutally murdered across the world? (The deeper and more troubling critique -- that the campaign uses horrible abuse of animals as a fundraising device while seemingly making no effort to actually help the animals abused -- will be developed in a future blog post. The danger of the “animal abuse industrial complex” is one of the primary reasons behind DxE’s soon-to-be-announced Open Rescue Network.)

I have walked in places of violence for nearly 10 years, and I can tell you that animal abuse is everywhere, and easy to find. We need not cross a gigantic ocean to find men doing horrible things to animals. We can fix the log in our own eye before picking at the speck in our neighbor’s. But to do that, we have to take action.

And the “we” in that statement is important. We need each other to succeed. We need to be organized, ambitious, and unified. The greatest movements in history have always been products of collective grassroots mobilization. While they have elevated figureheads to speak for them, their power has stemmed from their ability to inspire ordinary people to come together in waves of nonviolent direct action. To be the change they want to see in the world.

Single-issue campaigns that demonize foreigners do the opposite of this. They offer Westerners a pat on the back for their own moral beliefs and behaviors, and give us license to return to “normalcy.” But this sort of self-satisfied clicktivism is the opposite of what we should be shooting for, if we are seeking real and permanent change for animals. And it’s so far short of what we can achieve. We don’t have to settle for being cogs in a nonprofit machine. We don’t have to relegate our activism to being mere names and emails in a donor database or registry. We can save our animal friends, and, with the right support and community, we can do it now.

Undercover investigations, particularly of foreign practices, are, too often, a form of moral voyeurism. We watch. We shake our heads. Sometimes, we even condemn. But we never act. This failure to act, however, is as big of a problem as the violence itself. Peter Singer is known as the author of Animal Liberation, the father of the animal rights movement. But he made his name as a philosopher with another idea: namely, that the suffering of the oppressed is the result of both acts and omissions.

If you came across a child collapsed in a pond, what would you do?

The point is best illustrated by a simple example. Suppose a man walks by a little girl playing in a pond. He notices the child holds a quarter in her hand, and decides to strangle her to take the quarter.

Now let’s consider another man. He also walks by a child playing in a pond, but sees that the child has bumped her head and fallen unconscious in the water. She will drown if he does not step into the water and take her out. But he thinks to himself, “Washing my pants will cost at least 25 cents. That’s too much to ask” And so he leaves the child to drown.

Singer makes the quite sound point that there is no moral difference between these two men. In both cases, they have chosen 25 cents -- and their own self-interest -- over the fundamental rights of someone in need.

This example shows that the responsibility for suffering lies in the hands of both those who commit affirmative acts of violence, and those who sit quietly while that act of violence is being committed. Those who elevate privilege, comfort, and popularity over the terrors of the oppressed. Yet, too often, our campaigns ask for only that: to be mere bystanders to violence. We have to do better. We want to do better. We can do better. But to do that, we have to completely rethink what it means to fight for animal rights. We have to envision, not a consumer marketing campaign fed by flash-in-the-pan single-issue campaigns, but a global community of activists fighting with every ounce of their energy for the animals who have so little power to fight for themselves.

We do this at DxE. When we look at our campaigns, and measure our progress, we ask ourselves: have we built something that will survive? Have we built institutions, norms, and community? Have we created empowered networks of animal rights activism?

Summing Up

Let’s make no mistake. I would never express solidarity with those Chinese engaging in violent acts against innocent animals. What they are doing is truly an atrocity, and one that justifies immediate action to end. But the same industries, practices, and traditions that allow certain Chinese to terrorize dogs with impunity also oppress the Chinese people themselves. The government’s failure to act to protect animals, for example, is logically connected to its failure to protect human rights. This is a nation, after all, where hundreds of millions languish under the weight of one-party rule.

This is also not an attack on PETA. Some of my hardest working and most dedicated friends work at PETA. And PETA’s founder Ingrid Newkirk, though justifiably criticized, lives a spartan lifestyle, devotes every waking moment to animals, and has shown true genius in understanding the crucial role of disruption and provocation in building movements. PETA is also one of the only nonprofits that has consistently shown support for grassroots activists.

At DxE, we focus on building campaigns that are robust over the long haul. Join our next day of action on January 11.

Rather, this is a heartfelt request for us to collectively do better in three important ways. First, we need to start focusing on the big picture back home, rather than pick on secondary issues or marginal communities. We can’t afford to lose allies in the largest nation in the world, a nation with the fastest-growing animal abusing industries. Second, we need to start taking animal equality seriously -- in our campaigns, in our actions, and even in our words. We can’t rely on speciesist messaging if our goal is to end species prejudice. Third, while the temptation to wallow in clicktivism is strong, we have to ask more of ourselves than signing an online petition. We have to remember that that little brown dog is not just a pixel on a screen, or an unfortunate story in a land far away. She is a window to the desperation, terror, and suffering of animals who are imprisoned right next door. And we have to take nonviolent direct action to ensure that their lives are not forgotten.

Interview with John Sanbonmatsu, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Interview with John Sanbonmatsu, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

By Saryta Rodriguez

 

SR: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with Direct Action Everywhere.

JS:  Thanks for asking me. 

  John Sanbonmatsu

John Sanbonmatsu

SR: In your book, The Postmodern Prince: Critical Theory, Left Strategy and the Making of a New Political Subject, you discuss the philosophical and social transition from prioritizing the development of a “common language of politics” (as advocated by Marx, Engels and others) to the current “deconstruction of discourse” prevailing in various social movements today—including the AR movement. 

Would you care to elaborate on how such deconstruction challenges the progress of the AR movement, from your perspective?

JS:  The problem is not so much deconstruction, as such, but what became known as the "postmodern turn" in scholarship in the humanities under the influence of French poststructuralist philosophers like Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze and Guattari, and so on.   There are insights to be gotten out of some of these theorists (though some more than others).  The trouble is, poststructuralism is an exceedingly poor basis for formulating a substantive politics of any kind.  First, because poststructuralists want to distance themselves from humanism and Marxism, they are positively averse to normativity.  That is, they equivocate on important values, particularly in the realm of ethics, e.g. eschewing language of liberation or oppression (because their theory of language and power essentially implicates all of us in complex discourses rather than in responsibilities).

Postmodernist critical animal studies scholars insist that we all have “blood on our hands”—which is both true and beside the point, because such statements obscure the sociological dimensions of power, i.e. which groups have more of it than others, and why.  Some such theorists even warn us not to use the language of “animal rights” at all—objecting, on recondite theoretical grounds, that in talking about “rights” we end up reproducing “humanism” and the repressive apparatus of the State.  Others, like Donna Haraway, essentially defend the instrumental domination, use and killing of other animals. (Incidentally, Haraway has been invited to give the keynote address at animal studies conferences, where she has attacked vegans and veganism.)

In addition to this fuzziness or equivocation around values, poststructuralism occludes social phenomena, muddying the waters of theory by imposing abstract metaphysical concepts on empirical reality—e.g., “biopolitics,” “cyborgs,” “hybrids,” “memes,” “differance,” “actants,” “bodies that matter,” etc.  These terms bear about them the aura of de nouveau, the New, “the cool.”  They shine and have the allure of newly minted knowledge commodities—discursive coinage that bestows upon its bearer an aura of respectability and sophistication, within an economic structure of scarcity within the university system: scarce jobs, and even scarcer intellectual courage.

The responsibility of theory is in fact not to complicate our understanding of the world—which is already complicated and confusing enough—but to simplify it, to make it easier to grasp its essential or underlying features.  Theory should not make the world more complicated than it already is. 

Read full response here. 

SR: It’s no secret that ours is a movement wrought with semantic differences, with objections flying left and right to this or that term (as one also often encounters in discussions of gender and sexual orientation).  Do you see any potential benefit or value to semantic hairsplitting within the AR movement? Or is it a mere distraction, a waste of time?

JS:  If you mean the debate between welfarism and liberationism, I think that that debate, that distinction, does matter—and all the more so today, when the "humane meat" movement has taken over so much of the welfare wing of the movement.  I also think that arguments over tactics, particularly the problem of violence, are worth having.  That said, there's no doubt that we need to find a way to engage in debates without falling into ad hominem attacks and becoming so obsessed with definitions that we lose sight of what matters—other animals.  There are outsized egos in our movement, particular male egos; and as a consequence there is also a great deal of aggression in some of these debates (I have to cop to this one myself). 

One of the false dilemmas currently being bandied about is the old chestnut that reform and revolution are at odds with one another; but the question is how to go about seeking reforms of the current system without compromising our long-term goal of abolition.  What is key is that our campaigns chip away at the foundations of speciesism as a system and the only way that can happen is to show how single-issue reforms or campaigns are expressions of a deeper liberationist framework, rather than not from a welfarist one.  But welfarism and reformism are not the same.  One can consistently hold the position that Seaworld should be shut down, say, without along the way contrasting its immoral policies to so-called "better run" marine parks.  (There is an excellent Master's thesis on this, by the way, by Elizabeth Smith, a recent graduate of the Brock University animal studies program.)  Whatever we do, we always have to be challenging the core ideology of speciesism. 

SR:  Thank you for that insight.  I agree that this distinction is valuable; however, do you have any thoughts on other common semantic arguments in the AR movement, such as whether or not it's "okay" to employ the term vegan? I know a lot of activists have mixed feelings about whether using this term in particular is positive, negative, or neutral/inconsequential.

JS:  The word “vegan” is rather unavoidable, I think—at least in the context of eating.  At the same time, “veganism” is often a weak substitute or placeholder for the broader theme of animal liberation or animal rights.  “Veganism,” as you know, is associated in many people’s minds with one’s food preferences, even one’s “lifestyle.” Being vegan is seen as akin to being gluten intolerant, diabetic, or merely a finicky eater (as in, “Oh, I forgot—you’re vegan!  Where should we go where you can find something to eat?”). 

More radical or political “vegans,” of course, view veganism more broadly than this, encompassing a variety of other animal rights concerns with that term; but even to me, it is unclear why being a “vegan” as such should commit me to a public stance against vivisection, aquariums, or habitat destruction.  To answer your question, then, I would say that the animal rights movement would be wise to emphasize concepts of universal citizenship—as Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, the authors of Zoopolis, have argued—or otherwise develop a language and movement of general emancipation—one that takes the emphasis away from “diet.” 

Some years ago, I coined the term “metahumanism” to describe an ideology and praxis of universal freedom for humans and nonhumans: a democratic, feminist, socialist praxis that would include animal liberation at its center.  Apparently, though, it was a non-starter; so someone else should think of a way of representing our project to the broader public!  It needs to be clear to people that what is at stake is not simply a set of eating guidelines, but a total critique of society—of a way of life that has become inimical to life.

SR: Much of your work centers on the notion of critical theory: applying knowledge of social sciences to assess and critique society and culture.  Many readers may have encountered this term in Sociology 101 courses; but what insight does critical theory lend to AR activism today? Would you say it is being implemented efficiently, relative to its use in past social justice movements?

JS:  What makes critical theory "critical" is that it sets out from a point of view of social critique—a rejection of the dominant values and institutions of our culture (in this case, the rejection of speciesism as a mode of producing human life).  The purpose of critical theory is twofold.  At minimum, first, its function is to give us a clearer sense of what the "problem" actually is.  This is crucial.  How can we form campaigns, tactics or strategies, to solve a social problem without first understanding it?  For example, some animal rights activists seem to think that convincing people to become vegan will end animal agriculture; but the main force driving our exploitation of nonhuman beings today is capitalism as a world system. Evidently, then, changing people's dietary habits, while important, is not going to be enough.  Buying vegan burgers, for instance, may actually be reinforcing the system of speciesism because, in many cases, it profits the very same companies who are marketing meat products, such as Whole Foods.  So what may at first appear to be an unproblematic intervention may in reality subtly strengthen the system as a whole.  Hence the role of the intellectual (whether the astute grassroots activist or the professional sociologist or philosopher)—which is, first of all, to acquaint us with the facts—becomes crucial. 

But "facts" are fluid, cultural, and semiotic:  they include our use of language, representations of animals in literature and media, the political economies of the meat system, and so on. And they cannot be stumbled across by accident.  We have to be out looking for them, using the tools of theory.

In addition to illuminating the nature of the problem (or rather, problems, because speciesism is merely one key spoke on a giant wheel of interconnected systems of oppression and violence), critical theory can also help us think strategically about social change, by identifying points of weakness or contradiction in the current system. The history of critical theory actually succeeding at this is not terrible encouraging.  Marx and Engels were brilliant at diagnosing the contradictions of capitalism, but not very good at theorizing revolution.  (Most of the revolutions of the 20th century occurred in peasant-based societies, not highly industrialized ones, and most of them ended up being steeped in blood, before dissolving altogether.)  That said, at its best, critical theory can serve as a kind of compass, or as "map-making.” Even if the "map" we have is incomplete and in constant need of revision, it's better than not having any sense of direction at all.

SR: One of the primary goals of Direct Action Everywhere is to dispel the Humane Myth: the notion that there is a kind, “humane” way to enslave and ultimately murder a sentient being.  We understand this is also of the utmost importance to you; care to tell us why?

JS:  It is clear that the meat system is in crisis.  This could be an occasion for radical change.  As a species, we could seize this opportunity to embark on a new form of human life: one that would not be organized around the perpetual sexual reproduction and mass murder of billions of our biological kin.  Instead, we find sectors of the capitalist economy working very hard to prevent this from happening.  The system is doing everything it can to protect itself, by creating the illusion that one can "care" about animals while still wanting them to die violently at our own hands. Unfortunately, the strategy has been succeeding.

The reason why has to do with speciesism's "mode of legitimation," or characteristic way of defending itself as an idea and social practice.  Speciesism rests on a single pillar—the idea that human beings are superior to all of the other beings on earth, and that this superiority grants us a natural right to make use of the other beings however we like (a notion I have called "human species right").  As an ideology, this mode of legitimation obviously doesn't work quite as well as it once did.  The animal rights movement has raised consciousness about the brutal realities of animal agriculture.  Meanwhile, the global warming crisis has heightened awareness of the ecologically unsustainable nature of factory farming.  In other words, "meat" as an idea—or perhaps I should say as an ideal (as the preferred way for human beings to get their sustenance)—has become unstable, in direct proportion to the deepening of the ecological and moral contradictions at the heart of the system.  As a consequence, the animal industrial complex, as Kim Stallwood and others have called it, needs to be legitimated or justified in novel ways. 

Enter Michael Pollan and critics like him, who are essentially stabilizing the meat economy by telling consumers that they can have their meat and their consciences too. As we all know, middle class, mostly white consumers are buying into the "humane" myth.  Unfortunately, their strategy has been succeeding remarkably well, thanks to the pro-meat intelligentsia and the organic farming movement.  (I'm told that even the new Cowspiracy film focuses narrowly on the question of ecological sustainability, and entirely circumvents the real problem with animal agriculture, which is that it is mass violence and wholly unjust.)  Ironically, but perhaps by design, the new consumption regime is helping to stabilize factory farming, by reinforcing the bedrock ideological principle of speciesism, which is that the lives of other animals are without any intrinsic value—which means that we can exterminate billions of them without having to suffer any moral pangs.  Buying "pasture-raised" beef or organic eggs is like casting a vote for perpetual human dominion.

SR: What barriers have you encountered, or do you perhaps foresee, with respect to confronting the Humane Myth? How might it have become so thoroughly embedded in our culture that even those who label themselves “animal-lovers” or “anti-cruelty” nevertheless remain under its sway? I know this is a loaded question; but any insights or opinions you might have on the matter would be most appreciated.

JS:  Well, it already is embedded, I'm afraid.  There are probably two main reasons for it.  First, people are "interpellated" or conditioned by their culture to think selfishly and in terms of their own material comforts.  Consumer capitalism fragments society, isolates us as individuals, and leads us away from collective moral and spiritual reflection.  No one wants to reflect seriously on the meaning of their lives, let alone to soberly face their complicity in what amount to crimes and atrocities.  Eating animal products is convenient and aesthetically pleasing for many, which primes people to want to dismiss animal rights activists as lunatics or extremists. 

   French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer, and literary critic Jean-Paul Sartre.

French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer, and literary critic Jean-Paul Sartre.

Second, and relatedly, we human beings often exist in a state of what the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre called "bad faith."  That is, we continually make excuses for behavior we know is not really justified, deep down, so that we won't have to take responsibility for the choices we make as free beings.  This is why, when meat-eaters are challenged to reexamine their beliefs by vegetarians or vegans, they spontaneously invent the same fallacious arguments that everyone else does:  "plants are alive, too," "as long as we treat the animals respectfully, it's okay to harvest them," "lions eat gazelles, so it must be okay for us to eat animals," and so on.  We simply don't want to acknowledge what we are doing.   There is even anecdotal evidence in the news media that many former vegetarians are eating meat again, now that animals are supposedly being raised "sustainably" and "ethically."  Of course, such individuals probably never really cared about the animals, deep down, anyway:  they perhaps became vegetarians or vegans to demonstrate to themselves and others that they were progressive-minded, that they were properly concerned about "the environment" or what have you.  Bad faith, through and through.

None of us in the animal rights movement are innocent of bad faith, either.  There are plenty of vegans who think they are ethically pure, even though they consume products that are made with sweatshop labor in Asia, or indirectly cause animal suffering and death.  We can't entirely escape bad faith.  The question Sartre posed is how we might live more "authentically," by being vigilant to our propensity to escape our freedom.  All that we can do as activists is to point out the contradictions and hypocrisies in people's attitudes toward the other beings, and to show them what is really happening.

SR: In a letter to Aaron Gross of Farm Forward, you made a brilliant case against the Humane Myth while defending previous comments comparing the meat industry to the Holocaust.  This comparison is almost as common as it is controversial; but I admired your ability to dissect the issue. How did he respond? Was the interaction ultimately constructive, from your perspective?

JS:  The letter I wrote, which was published on Robert Grillo's Free From Harm website, was my response to an email Aaron sent to me after I contacted Farm Forward and told them what I thought of their morally repugnant work. Gross never responded to my critique; not a single word—even though Robert invited him to write a reply for the website.  Frankly, I don't see how he could have replied.  He must know, deep down, that I and others are right about this—that Farm Forward and other groups are colluding with evil.

In terms of the comparison between our treatment of animals to the Shoah or Nazi extermination of European Jewry and Roma, there are simply too many similarities to ignore.  At the same time, we should take care to note that our treatment of animals resembles genocide as such, slavery as such.  It isn't just the Holocaust that we should be talking about, but slavery in the ancient world and in the Americas, the Rape of Nanking by the Japanese, and so on. 

SR:  Critical theorists are captivated by the nature, meaning, and significance of power. How do you think the discourse and practice of animal agriculture—particularly "humane" meat—influence the pervasive power imbalance between humans and non-humans? How is that power imbalance related to other systems of power, and how might we most effectively challenge it? 

JS:  Unfortunately, the problem of "power" has largely disappeared in critical theory, thanks to the outsized influence of Michel Foucault and other poststructuralists, who drew attention away from classical conceptions of power as ideological hegemony to focus on "micro" power—power dwelling exclusively in the interstices of discourse, language, the comportment of our bodies, and so on.  This is not to say that Foucault and others didn't make a contribution to our understanding of power, because they did; however, with the exception of Marxists, a few remaining radical feminists, many sociologists, and some critical race theorists, theorists have otherwise ceased to be interested in power as a relational concept—as the dominance of one group over another.  Symptomatically, Judith Butler, the poststructuralist feminist, has essentially removed the term "patriarchy" from the lexicon of feminism, making it very difficult, as a consequence, to "name" the problem of male domination.

In terms of "humane meat," as I said, the entire discourse reinvigorates speciesism as a mode of domination, by providing ideological cover for the underlying principle of domination and violence, which it utterly fails to examine.  In this sense, the sustainable meat and locavore movements can be seen as a rearguard action by the intelligentsia and Western middle class to secure their right to appropriate the bodies of other beings, in the face of the animal rights critique.

You ask how this system of dominance is related to others, and how to challenge it.  Many fine scholars have shown the ways that speciesism reinforces and is reinforced by other systems of power and inequality, including capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and so on.  The only thing I would say as a caveat to such analyses is that we shouldn't succumb to the metaphysical presumption that all systems of oppression are equal in strategic or political significance, even though we must agree that they are all of equal moral importance.  In my opinion, capitalism and patriarchy pose the two greatest challenges to animal liberation today:  capitalism because it drives animal exploitation economically, ideologically and politically ("politically" insofar as the state is effectively controlled by big business); and male dominance because it propagates a value structure of objectification, domination, and violence.  Militarized masculinity and misogyny are also at fault—think of the recent "Gamer Gate" controversy—because patriarchy is antithetical to the development of an ethic of care, one that would place compassion toward other beings at its center.

SR: Your work also refers to intersectionality: the study of the intersections of various forms of oppression and abuse. This is paramount to Direct Action Everywhere, as we often host lectures and discussions about the relationships between speciesism, racism and sexism.  However, while opponents to any of these systems should naturally oppose the others, many do not.  How might we build bridges between groups who share the AR passion for justice and equality, but who may themselves persist in engaging in speciesist behavior?

JS:  I think that what DxE is doing to bring these issues together is admirable and important and timely.  I don't have a solution to this important problem, however, other than to say that we who constitute the left-wing sector of the AR movement need to keep showing up at protests and conferences of the political Left to insist that our voices and those of the animals be heard.  I think sometimes of the efforts of feminists within the US antiwar movement in the late 1960s, who tried to introduce questions of women's equality to the movement but were initially greeted by their male comrades with rape jokes.  The women eventually won!  However, the problem for the AR movement is that, unlike feminism, which spoke on behalf of one of the most sizable human constituencies there is—women as a class—we in the AR movement represent only a tiny sliver of the human population.  So unless we press our points and become something of a nuisance, we will continue to be ignored by the wider Left.  The challenge is to be insistent and unbending, without, however, lapsing into self-righteous indignation and shaming behaviors, which historically have been poisonous to building and sustaining large-scale social movements.

SR:  Aside from encouraging one anti-hatred group, such as a group of feminists, to live a more non-human-friendly lifestyle (by illustrating that “bovine women” are raped repeatedly to promote pregnancy and, in turn, milk production, for instance), how might animal liberationists—who ultimately fight for the freedom and equality of all species, including homo sapiens—effectively support and embrace other movements without jeopardizing our own? As an AR advocate, is taking a firm public stance on sexism, racism or any other –ism too risky?

JS:  I'm very ambivalent, actually, about the strategy of asking feminists to take animal rights seriously by emphasizing milk production and pregnancy, i.e. the oppression of their "sisters."  Gender is simply a meaningless concept when applied to nonhuman beings—a human projection.  As Carol Adams, Josephine Donovan, and other ecofeminists have shown, speciesist discourse often "animalizes" women and correspondingly depicts farm animals like cows and chickens as "feminine."  Our job is to deconstruct this fraudulent way of conceiving of gender and power, not to subtly reinforce it by suggesting that a cow is a "woman," which is absurd.  It is certainly true that women who choose to give birth, who have had that experience, may more keenly appreciate the heart-wrenching cruelty involved in, say, tearing a newborn calf away from his mother's side and throwing him into a veal crate; but many women don't have children, and don't want to.  And we musn't forget that many of the most outspoken proponents of killing animals in the carno-locavore movement are women—many of them, like Barbara Kingsolver, with children of their own.  In fact, the so-called "femivore" discourse of meat deploys "maternal" metaphors of "caring" for infant animals—before killing them!  So emphasizing the supposed natural solidarity between women and animals seems like a mistake to me.  Moreover, men are just as capable of empathizing with cows and calves as women are, and half of the victims of animal agriculture (not to mention scientific experiments, zoos, etc.) are male animals.

To the substance of your question, though, I always go back to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s point that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  The reason we have to support the movement for gender equality for women and members of the LGBTQ is not simply that animal liberationism ultimately depends to some degree on human social liberation—which it does—but because it is the right thing to do.  How we do that will always be complicated and difficult, and I don't have anything to add to what DxE and a few others are already doing.

SR:  In your opinion, how should AR groups navigate the waters of being inclusive and welcoming while remaining committed to ending oppression? For instance, what is to be done with a potential AR advocate who wants to work with an AR coalition, but makes plain that he or she is sexist or racist? Should such individuals be excluded entirely, or might they still be of some value to the movement?

JS:  This is a certainly tough question.  The Left, including feminism, has historically had a very hard time building sustainable movement cultures, in part because of our tendency as human beings to want everyone to see the world as we do.  On the one hand, if we're serious about so-called "intersectionality"—or universal justice, which is how I would prefer to describe it—then we obviously want to build a movement that is as "prefigurative" as possible. We want to build, here and now in our movement, in a concrete way, a mini-version of the idealized society of the future that we are striving towards.  However, human beings are imperfect, and always will be.  No matter how sure I am that I'm right and you're wrong, I need to acknowledge my capacity for error and poor judgment.  So we need to approach our activism with a generous dose of humility and humor.  This means being vigilant to self-righteousness, to "purges" of those who waver from an intellectual or political orthodoxy, to public shaming of those who disagree with us, whom we perceive as possessing "less evolved" opinions or attitudes than we do. 

This isn't to say that we should ignore sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, etc., within our movement.  The question, rather, is how do we confront them?  When someone makes a sexist remark, say—and inevitably somebody will, because none of us are innocent of these structures—do we jump on them and tell them to leave the room, or even the movement?  Or do we firmly but respectfully tell them how we feel about their remark, and explain why we think it's inappropriate or damaging? 

I don't think the question should ever be whether this or that person has "some value to the movement," which strikes me as an instrumental conception of other persons.  Rather, the question is whether the individual can be "reached" or not.  Some people don't play well with others, and they aren't able or willing to change.  If someone within an organization, therefore, is disruptive, or repeatedly saying hurtful or ignorant things, and isn't open to an honest dialogue about their attitudes, then clearly they don't belong there.  But that's different from turning on a well-meaning white person, say, who enters a movement naively, without having been asked before to reflect on his or her race privilege, and faulting them for not already having a graduate-level comprehension of racism.  I do think it's possible to have these difficult conversations, so long as it's handled compassionately and in as non-judgmental a fashion as possible.  All this said, I should say that we need to have to have a zero tolerance policy for people who actually commit sexual assaults or other improprieties (so-called "predatorial" heterosexual men), or who are obstinately racist, etc.

SR: Please tell our readers a bit about your involvement with DxE. 

JS:  To be honest, my involvement in DxE is peripheral, besides these interviews and my participation in a single action at a Chipotle's here in the Boston area.  But I am very sympathetic, obviously, to DxE and what it is trying to achieve. 

SR:  Thank you so much for your time, John.  Before we sign off, is there any remaining advice you’d like to offer to Direct Action Everywhere and other AR coalitions around the world?

JS:  I think the only piece of advice I can give as an "armchair general" (take what I say, therefore, with some skepticism), is that direct action is a tactic, not a strategy, and it should only be used to leverage specific objectives.  I agree with Kim Stallwood that the AR movement globally has been a disappointment in any number of ways, and that we need to get smarter, politically, about how we go about translating an ethical campaign into a political one.  Protesting is not enough, and it can even be counterproductive if it is not done the right way and is not calculated to broaden the movement and push things forward.  The challenge we all face, emotionally and even "existentially," is how to keep advocating radical social change in the face of a pervasive and deep-seated global culture of terrible violence.  We want just to just get out there and "do something;" but we have to think very carefully about what to do, and we have to be careful not to further isolate the movement. 

This is why I am against the use of violence in our movement, or even using violent language.  Quite apart from the ethical contradiction of using violence against animals (i.e. human animals) to protect animals, it's clear that the general human population is not ready to sympathize with violence or even property destruction--for example, arson and the like.  Some theorists have compared destructive, anonymous forms of direct action to the actions of Resistance fighters in France and other occupied areas of Europe under the Nazis.  But that analogy fails, it seems to me, because in the Nazi case, most members of the occupied population sympathized with the saboteurs already.  Also, there was an "outside" to the occupation (the Allied forces trying to defeat Germany), whereas today, by contrast, the vast majority of people are either indifferent to animal rights or hostile to the movement.  In our context, militant tactics that involve property destruction or threats to researchers will probably backfire.  For this reason, I support nonviolent campaigns like Open Rescue, Animal Equality, DxE, and others which have embraced the nonviolent tradition—which is the harder but surer path to follow.

SR:  One last question: What is your spirit animal?

JS:  I am not familiar with the term; but, if pressed, I'd say that my spirit animal is my 12-year-old son.

The [Commercial & Ethical] Impossibility of “Humane” Eggs

 Little Red was rescued from a "pasture" egg farm -- the very best of the less than 1% best -- before she was going to be killed for being "spent" at two years old, as all hens exploited for their eggs are fated to be. (Oh, and like many ex-"pasture" girls, she had a band embedded in her leg because she outgrew it and her exploiter obviously did not care. She is permanently mutilated, and will forever walk with a limp because of it.)

Little Red was rescued from a "pasture" egg farm -- the very best of the less than 1% best -- before she was going to be killed for being "spent" at two years old, as all hens exploited for their eggs are fated to be. (Oh, and like many ex-"pasture" girls, she had a band embedded in her leg because she outgrew it and her exploiter obviously did not care. She is permanently mutilated, and will forever walk with a limp because of it.)

The [Commercial & Ethical] Impossibility of “Humane” Eggs

By Kelly Atlas

(This post is intended to illustrate the commercial problems that make mass-producing eggs at lauded "humane" standards impracticable, and to further identify how a genuinely "humane" standard is never met and argue that the very idea of "humane" exploitation is impossible -- in terms of both intents and impacts -- while providing contextual information about what is involved in the exploiting of chickens for their eggs, as well as explaining the important ethical and tactical reasons to recognize all eggs as a product of human chauvinism and violence.)

Currently, outside of my involvement with DxE, I work at an adoption center (Animal Place’s Rescue Ranch) for nonhuman refugees who were exploited for “food” purposes. We recently rescued two thousand “spent” chickens from battery cages, before they were gassed. So let me tell you what it would take to sell eggs from chickens who get a sanctuary standard of living.

Let’s say we have 1,500 hens, in absolutely minimal sanctuary conditions (a reasonable minimum standard for what is arguably “humane” I hope we can agree), who are each laying at the 300-eggs/year upper end of the maximum amount of “egg production” that hens are forced (through their breeding) to perform in their first year after they start laying.

Every day, that’s *very conservatively* $150 for food and water, $15 straw and nesting materials for barns that they need to be in at night to protect them from nonhuman predators, and at least 15 hours of human labour per day just for cleaning (which is $109 at USA Federal Minimum Wage).

Just to split even with those costs, the eggs would have to be sold wholesale at a cost of 22-cents each, or $2.67/dozen wholesale. (The “large” white eggs of leghorns exploited in battery cages are currently $1.67/dozen wholesale in California where costs are highest in the US.)

At *minimum* sanctuary standards, this is already 160% the current cost of mass-produced eggs, and that’s not including what the grocery store adds on, and that’s not including extra cleaning hours needed, or above-minimum-wage earnings, or the costs of more food or higher-quality food (or calcium supplementation, which is definitely needed as the birds age past a year or two) if needed, and it certainly does not include profits and CEO-stuffer, or even utilities costs, or medical costs, or building and fencing and maintenance costs, or maintenance labour hours, or cleaning supplies costs, or transportation and shipping costs, or packaging costs, or admin costs, or advertising costs, or the costs of running a similar-standards farm for the parent birds and the layer chicks before they start laying or otherwise the cost of buying the hens to support the forested/pastured-breeding farms where the hens (let’s just call them slaves, since that is what it is to purchase someone else as property) were purchased, or the costs of raising the males (who can’t lay eggs!) if we don’t throw them in a trash bag (who am I kidding, the grinder is more popular) as infants, or the costs of whatever happens to the bodies of the birds who have passed on… and even those are just the ‘other’ costs that I can think of straight off the top of my head right now.

Then you’re definitely past the $3.00/dozen at which humanewashing exploiter Joel Salatin’s  “pastured” (PS, wild junglefowl don’t live in open pastures — not ethically relevant, but let’s understand who we’re exploiting a little better here) eggs sell.

This is NOT FEASIBLE for businesses that market to anyone but the wealthiest couple percent of the population (though a few backyard businesses that already have the land can do nearly-this at $5/dozen exploiting 50 hens/year, though they support hatcheries, profit from the hens’ constant suffering, do not give their inmates the medical care that sanctuaries commit to, kill said slaves, and promote speciesism and violence). It is absolutely impossible for the scale and pricing of the vast majority of eggs we consume currently from hens exploited in cramped battery cages and confined “free range" sheds.

This is all with all the chicken-enslavement (and corn-production) subsidies staying the same (which means staying what, tens of times higher than subsidies for fruit). Without the nonhuman exploiters buying off our corrupt government, eggs would cost even more — much more!

We’re not done yet, though. Now, let's go past what the very best of the "pasture" camps do, and, like a sanctuary, say we don’t murder anyone, but let them live out whatever lives their breeding allows them to. This means an average of far fewer eggs, as the rate at which they are able to form them continues to decline until their bred-broken bodies fail them (just over half as many by the time they’re three, and most will die around or before four due to reproductive problems so humanely bestowed on them through their breeding). Now you’re looking at around double the price of what you got after all of those extra items that came after the originally calculated 60% less-than-the-bare-minimum-costs markup.

If we make all of that other sanctuary-esque stuff happen, and it’s cheaper to kill them, why should we refuse to, if the lives they've lived have been net-positive? [Insert facepalm.] For the same ethical reasons that we should not bring human children into the world to be killed for their flesh after living to puberty in a net-positive life. (Reasons that apply whether you care more about the intention of your actions or their effects.)

It’s pretty straightforward: Their future life is worth more to them than their exploited bodies are to humans (who only seek to eat them because of habits — and moreover, hateful ideologies — that they’ve been taught). That's the case even if we kill someone in a 100% painless murder (which is, again, not commercially possible -- if possible at all, which I highly doubt, or rather, which I doubt with complete certainty given the lack of possibility to guarantee it is carried out perfectly, in which case the risk of any physical and emotional pain upon being murdered outweighs the negligible, entirely replaceable "pleasure" a human derives from eating their eggs).

Oh, and let’s not forget about the very significant speciesism- and violence-perpetuating social costs of saying it’s totally okay (and worse, morally superior and wonderful) to kill someone when their usefulness to us has run out, so long as they are so unfortunate as to not be a human.

To hammer it in past all the humanewashing propaganda we see every day: Where “humane” means anything like “compassion” it is utterly impossible to “humanely” use someone, for our own selfish purposes, at a cost to them (and others like them) that outweighs the perceived, easily substituted (by new social norms and palate pleasures — and with no transition cost at all for humans who never eat an egg) 'gain' to ourselves.

I REITERATE: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE “HUMANE” REDUCTION OF A PERSON TO AN OBJECT OF PROPERTY.

Don’t let me neglect to emphasize the ethical consideration of the serious physical (and thereby, in addition, emotional) burden that these people carry on account of being bred to lay so many (and such massive) eggs. They get prolapses and they struggle to lay and they have to eat and rest a lot, and, importantly, the vast majority of them will die young because of the shackles written into their genes. Frankly, I consider that not only painful and exhausting exploitation, but, importantly, murder.

For those who, after all of that, have resolved to endorse the selling of eggs from rescued chickens kept in backyards, forget it, because the social costs of degrading those animals to egg-making machines for us to use puts other chickens at risk of what you do not consider “humane."

There is no non-speciesist way to “farm” people who aren't human. “Humane” exploitation is ALWAYS a lie.

Until every animal is free,

Kelly, who aims to speak on behalf of Dualla & Snow, the two liberated hens in her family.

Is there a place in animal rights for a kid from China? - Part III: The Path Forward

Racist fear-mongering over the "Yellow Peril" has driven public perceptions of Asia for almost 200 years, yet very few acknowledge harboring bias against Asians. 

Is there a place in animal rights for a kid from China?  
Part III: The Path Forward

by Wayne Hsiung

(Check out Part I and Part II of this series.)


One of the most striking things about the hateful anti-Chinese rant that went viral last week is that it was, surprisingly…. not racist. Yes, the speaker derided Chinese people for being loud, dirty, and disgusting. Yes, she mocked our most heartfelt and earnest practices, e.g. our commitment to giving our children educational opportunities denied to prior generations. And yes, she screamed profanities at us for failing to assimilate and insisted that we had a duty to become more “American.” But it wasn’t racist because, you see, the tour guide emphasized that she’s “not racist.” 

Too often, thoughtful discussions about race within the animal rights movement are met with a similar dismissal. “It’s for the animals,” we say. “It’s not about race.” Even more troubling, however, is when dismissal turns into outright hostility – even among the people within our movement who wear their anti-racist credentials like a badge of honor. Indeed, at DxE our earnest attempts to start constructive dialogue on race have often been met by untrammeled hatred and anger.

In the first part of this series, I set out the concept of performing whiteness: the elevation of white, Western perspectives, practices, and people over other communities across the world. In the second part, I showed how the problem of performing whiteness has undermined the struggles of both Asians and animals. Today, I want to move away from problems and toward solutions. But as the infamous tour guide’s declaration shows (“I want you all to know that I’m not racist.”), solutions are not easy to come by. They require us to dig deep, think hard, and reflect on our beliefs and behavior in ways that may make us uncomfortable or even angry. But if we can meet the challenge, it will make us better people and activists. So let’s take that journey together.  


Representing the World

I ended my last post with a question: Am I betraying my own heritage, culture and people… betraying my own non-whiteness…. by fighting for animal rights?

Before I answer that question, though, I want to explain why it’s important. In prior posts, I showed how performing whiteness has undermined our ability to gain real traction in communities of color. And this, alone, is a significant fact. After all, perhaps 85% of the people on this planet are people of color. And the most rapidly growing animal killing industries are in India and China, where the people have not, historically, eaten much meat. We cannot change the world, in short, if we are only changing the white world.

But one might say, “People from developing countries can’t be won over at this point. There are too many struggles these people face, and they don’t have time for animal rights. Let’s focus on the low-hanging fruit.”

And there is some truth to this claim. Our ability to change foreign peoples is quite limited… but not because animal rights can’t take hold in a poor country. After all, the main objectives of animal liberation, contrary to conventional wisdom, are not economically privileged. My own parents, who grew up on a quasi vegan diet due to poverty, are one example. But more generally, animal agriculture comprises a tiny portion of the global economy, and is hardly a growth industry. (By my calculation, the value of all the animals on farms in this country is just 1.7% of the US federal budget.) Education (especially of women), technology, and institutions, not resource-and-labor-intensive agriculture, are key to development in the third world.

The reason we struggle to recruit foreign peoples, then, has nothing to do with material deprivation and everything to do with… friendship. That’s the conclusion of a new strand of research that has burgeoned in the past 10 years, network science. And what network science has taught us is this: When it comes to social change, we are affected first and foremost by our immediate peers. Government and public health professionals have struggled for half a century, for example, to determine what drives people to stop smoking, but smoking rates have remained stuck at the same 20% of the adult population.  We’ve tried education, taxes, and replacement products galore. But what social scientists have found is that a single intervention beats pretty much any other in causing even the most stubborn smokers to quit: the smoking norms of one’s friends. If a smoker’s spouse stops smoking, and begins to condemn the practice, an astonishing 67% of people will follow by quitting themselves. And if a single friend stops smoking, the figure is 34%.

Spreading influence through peer networks, in short, is the Holy Grail of social change. And yet this is exactly where we have little capacity when we attempt to change a foreign practice or community. Yet, because of our unspoken commitment to performing whiteness, our most popular and passionate campaigns focus on these areas. In short, we engage in campaigns against foreign practices and communities because they are foreign, and not because they are effective.

We should not be surprised, then, when those campaigns fail. Take the white-led campaign to end whaling in Japan. The Japanese activist Tetsuhiko Endo writes that “the international whaling industry makes no more than $31 million a year while major anti-whaling NGOs spend around $25 million. What have whales gotten out of all this anti-whaling money? Hunting rates that are twice as high as they were in 1990.”

What’s the problem? Well, the campaign has made no traction whatsoever in Japan. Endo writes that “for many Japanese, citing whaling as a source of 'national heritage’ is another way of saying ‘I’m not going to let some fat, aggressive White man tell me what I can and cannot eat.’… [I]f the scales were reversed, and it was the Japanese… who were slandering us for eating, say, tuna, most people would feel the same way.” And without the support of the Japanese – without local activists working with us – it is the whales who ultimately lose.

A recent pro-vivisection rally in Southern California had far more diversity than the typical animal rights protest. That has to change. 

But anti-colonial sentiments are not confined to the issue of whale slaughter. (For the record, notwithstanding its often racist messaging, I admire the folks at Sea Shepherd, including Paul Watson, and have had many friends serve on their ships.) Virtually every campaign of ethnic targeting creates the same us v. them dynamics. Whether it's dog meat images that portray "uncivilized" Chinese taking advantage of men's best friend. Primate trapping videos where "barbaric" Cambodians kidnap primate children from their mothers. Or even fur protests that make unusual and derisive emphasis on Asia as the region of origin. All of these campaigns play into racial animosity, shape the way people of color view our movement, and create situations in which a poor kid from China can’t work for animals without feeling like a traitor to his own people. Who wants to side with the bullying white man, after all, against his own family?  The entire movement for animal rights, in short, is discredited within communities of color by anti-foreigner campaigns. 

The problem goes even further than this, however, because performing whiteness does damage within white communities as well. The unusual focus on "minority" issues, and by privileged white folks who know almost nothing of the communities they are targeting, creates a public perception that the animal rights movement is frivolous. The province of bored and entitled white people who have too much money and time on their hands. Country club activism. Not a true social justice movement. Maybe even, dare we say it, a little racist -- which, at least when it is finally acknowledged, is the cardinal sin of the Left. 

Indeed, the distinguished scholars I cited at the start of this series – Donaldson and Kymlicka  – identify performing whiteness as perhaps the single largest stumbling block in our movement’s growth. How can anyone – even white people – take this movement seriously when it’s so inconsistently, incoherently, and arbitrarily attacking foreigners, people of color, and marginal practices while ignoring far larger and worse atrocities occurring in our own neighborhoods?


In short, changing our movement’s race dynamics is vitally important for two reasons. First, we have to represent the world if we are going to change the world because local activists on the ground – with specific knowledge, experience, relationships, and credibility – are the key to real and permanent change. Second, our diversity gives us strength even in the West. It shows that our ideas have been independently discovered by people from all nations and continents, from all cultures and creeds – and therefore gives those ideas global credibility. It shows that we are not just a bunch of bored, privileged, and judgmental white people, but rather an urgent, heartfelt, and international movement to give voice to the animals whose voices have been so heartlessly silenced.

It shows, in short, that our message can change the world.


Easier Said than Done

So if performing whiteness hurts us both at home and abroad, if it stops Chinese people such as me (and countless others) from finding a place in our movement, why don’t we just fix the problem?

The first difficulty is the same one we face as animal rights advocates: failure to take the victim's perspective. Many of the powerful people in the animal rights movement, because they lack the experience of being mocked, bullied, or even violently attacked for their race, simply don’t appreciate the existence of the problem. Like animal eaters, they ignore the victim’s perspective.

The most recent national animal rights conference, for example, included panels on the intersections between animal rights and many other social justice causes (environmentalism, feminism, class issues, etc.). But despite having virtually no faces of color, and being filled with campaigns (including the keynote speaker Paul Watson) targeting foreigners and people of color, there was not a word about race in the original program. It took an aggressive behind-the-scenes effort by DxE (with a few supporters within the conference’s organizing group at FARM) to get a small workshop addressing diversity and racism – a workshop that ended up being heavily attended by people of color and whites alike. Still, though we tried our best, we failed to get even a simple statement in support of racial diversity into the conference’s program.

The irony is that this would be a disappointing outcome even in the corporate world. Following Nobel-winning economist Gary Becker – who first pointed out that racism simply doesn’t pay half a century ago – large corporations have spent the past few decades trying to create a more inclusive racial environment. Support for racial diversity is now standard practice in corporate missions and codes of ethics. And the largest corporations in the world trumpet their diversity efforts, e.g. Coca Cola, McDonald’s, and Exxon.

Corporations such as Exxon take racial diversity and cultural awareness more seriously than the animal rights movement. 

The grassroots animal rights movement needs to push the powerful people in animal rights to give diversity the same attention. We have to do at least as well as Exxon. The good sign is that key organizers of the conference at FARM and other leaders in the national animal rights movement appear to be taking heed. For example, the coordinators of Animal Liberationists of Color have been promised that there will be a serious attempt to address racial diversity and targeting at AR2015. (Simultaneously, many prominent voices, including Matt Ball and Gary Francione, have pushed our movement away from relatively marginal "minority" practices and towards majority practices in the West.) 

But powerful people are not enough. We also need to challenge culture – the widespread and unspoken assumptions (e.g. that dog-meat is a crime but chicken-meat just a faux pas) that affect all of us, and not just people in power. And that leads us to the second difficulty: the natural human tendency to lash out at criticism. This tendency is particularly stark in activist circles because our movements are filled with passionate people whose self-image is linked to social justice and ethical rectitude.

And, again, DxE has experienced this problem firsthand. In one of our earliest trips down to Southern California in March 2013, I raised what I hoped would be constructive suggestions with a grassroots group called Empty Cages Los Angeles (which subsequently spawned another group called The Bunny Alliance). ECLA was protesting Chinese airlines and the Asian primate trade, and I talked to them about the importance of including Chinese voices in the campaign. But when I made what I thought was a relatively uncontroversial statement – that all Chinese people in this country have had the experience of walking into a white room and feeling immediately undermined and excluded – I was met with a shockingly hostile response.


“You have to acknowledge your privilege as an Asian person. You all have assimilated in a way that other people of color have not.”

This was my first introduction to the concept of Asian privilege, which Bill O’Reilly, among others, is fond of. I disagreed respectfully.

“I think that’s a little bit of a myth. There is no such thing as a model minority – all people of color face discrimination – and Asians, far from assimilating, are actually seen as perpetual foreigners.”

“But you have to admit that, demographically, Asians have more social and economic power,” another person chimed in.

The tense conversation that followed was bizarre. Even in conservative Indiana, where people of color were widely derided, I had never been told that Asians had too much power. The idea seemed utterly absurd to me. After all, Asians are hardly even seen, much less given power. But I’ve subsequently learned that it’s a “thing” in California to hold resentment against Asian people because, despite the overwhelming evidence of continuing discrimination, many feel that we have too many slots at elite universities. Never mind that we’re paid less for equal work, that our children are physically beaten in American schools (the same schools that we supposedly “control”), or that the slots at elite universities, for us, rarely result in elite positions post-graduation.

There’s another layer to this, however, in the context of animal rights. Scholars of racism have shown that the mere act of setting one group against another, in an adversarial setting, generates resentment and prejudice against the “other.” The movement’s overwhelming whiteness and unusual focus on Asian practices, therefore, not only reflect but also actively worsen our discriminatory feelings against Asians. The vicious cycle of antagonistic race relations is fed by white campaigns against Asians even if race is not expressly invoked.

Given both the evidence of widespread discrimination and my personal experiences as a victim of racist violence, I was shocked by the discussion of “Asian privilege.” But I dropped the conversation. One of the things you quickly realize as a person of color is that talking too much about race, especially to a white audience, often has bad results. I privately wondered, though, whether the activists leading the campaign against the Asian primate trade were developing unconscious prejudices against Asians. When you have one race on one side, and the other race on the other, it’s hard to avoid.

A few months later, when I saw a video of an office disruption at a Chinese airline in which a group of mostly white activists streamed into an office and screamed “Leave Town” at the Chinese people inside, my heart almost stopped. As someone who has had exactly those words screamed into my face, my body’s fight-or-flight response was triggered. My first thought was to send an angry email to the organizers. But after sleeping on it, I felt that the issue could not be pushed too aggressively. It was early in DxE’s history -- indeed, before DxE even officially existed -- and we were trying to build alliances rather than create enemies. So after sending a polite message suggesting that the campaign could be re-framed, and asking the organizers to try to put forth more Chinese voices in support of the campaign, I dropped the issue. These were, after all, systemic issues, and it made no sense to pick on one particular campaign.

If only things were so easy. The consequence of the comments I made about the targeting of Asians was a hostile response the likes of which I have never seen in my 15 years as an activist. A horde of activists lashed out at us for "racism" against whites. And prominent white supporters of the campaigns that I privately criticized, including Amy Love (Empty Cages LA), Jordan Act (The Bunny Alliance), and Jake Conroy (SHAC7 defendant), took it upon themselves to engage in a 1.5 year campaign of racial one-upsmanship and character assassination (including referring to me as “disgusting,” barring me from demonstrations when I offered to join as an olive branch, and mocking DxE activists at every opportunity in social media) that I can only compare to the hatred that I felt growing up in Indiana. Mutual friends have relayed to me that the supporters of the Asian campaigns took it upon themselves to show to the world that they are not, in fact, racist – and to “destroy DxE” for daring to suggest otherwise. Virtually every week another strange rumor or allegation comes out, and unlike many expressions of social media hostility (which are inevitable as our platform grows), the campaign appears to be organized and has actively interfered with our work, including nearly causing a Seattle speaking event to be cancelled because of my alleged connections with racists and white supremacists.


Among the many false allegations against DxE: 

Attempts to build better racial understanding are often met with violent opposition, such as this post on the author's Facebook page. But unapologetic racists are a small part of the problem. 

Rumor: DxE took money from the wife of a white supremacist, and Wayne has close ties to such groups. (Amy Love, Jordan Act, Jake Conroy)

Truth: If it sounds absurd – after all, DxE is organized primarily by people of color – it probably is. In fact, we hardly know the woman at issue, a close friend of Amy’s named Melissa who lives in Southern California, and Melissa ironically blocked all of us after the rumor came out because she thought we were the source. DxE did not even exist as a fundraising entity when we met her briefly in August 2013.

Rumor: DxE has silenced and excluded people of color. (Jake Conroy)

Truth: We had some unfortunate conflict between two community members – one Jewish, and one Persian – but did our best to hear out the genuine concerns about racism raised by both sides and still welcome all parties to the conflict to our events.

Rumor: DxE refuses to work with other groups, is exclusive, and divides the animal rights community. (Jake Conroy)

Truth: We’ve worked with and promoted IDA, Animal Place, Animal Liberation Victoria, and countless other groups across the world. Even the leaders within the movement whom we most disagree with, e.g. Bruce Friedrich, seem pretty ok with our approach to conflict.

Rumor: DxE doesn't have a real concern for anti-racism because some of its members have shown support for anti-Asian campaigns. They are just hypocrites. (Jake Conroy)

Truth: This one is also a little hard to take seriously, given the number of Asian people in our organizing group. (Do we really have to defend our authentic interest in not having our own families murdered?) But it’s true that many of us – including yours truly – have attended demonstrations addressing Asian practices. What our critics fail to understand, though, is that DxE does not operate as they do. When we see a problem, we try to show solidarity with other campaigns and reshape them from within. (And we often succeed.) We don’t immediately set out to destroy those who are different from, or disagree with, us.

Rumor: Wayne is a member of the Illuminati, or a mole for Chipotle/the CIA. (Anonymous Portland activist, as conveyed to one of our organizers)

Truth: Sigh. 

One of hardest things about these rumors is that the source of many of them, Jake Conroy, is a long-time activist whom I respect immensely. But Jake has been a big and vocal supporter of two campaigns that DxE has politely (and privately) questioned: against the Asian primate trade, and against the Japanese whale/dolphin slaughter. A well-known and extremely intelligent activist, and someone whom I share many close friends with, Jake was one of the first people I reached out to when I moved to the Bay Area. He’s a genuine hero to many in the animal rights movement, and justifiably so, as he served 4 years in prison for his work on the SHAC campaign.

But Jake is also, to be blunt, very uninformed when it comes to race. In private conversations with both myself and a co-organizer (Priya Sawhney, an immigrant from India who has shared powerful stories of racial oppression with mainstream media), Jake has indicated that he feels discussions of anti-Asian sentiment and racial diversity in the animal rights movement are, in his exact words, “playing the race card.” Campaigns targeting Asians, he has instructed us, are not about race. Case closed.

In multiple meetings in which we've attempted to address the issue, I haven’t seen in Jake any interest in trying to understand others’ perspectives, to understand what it feels like to live your entire life wishing you had another person’s face and skin, and to have the people who have always been placed above you screaming at you with frightening levels of hostility. Moreover, while privately condemning us for “playing the race card,” Jake has gone out of his way to attack DxE publicly for supposed failings of intersectionality and for silencing people of color. That’s right. The same person who threatens and attacks us for playing the race card also alleges that we are silencing people of color.

We know that Jake and his allies have specifically reached out to people of color to try to mobilize them against DxE. When I wrote to Jake privately raising a concern about campaigns against the Asian primate trade, instead of considering whether there might be some legitimacy to my concerns, his group’s immediate response was to write to a Chinese person to seek out token support. How do I know? The Chinese person they wrote to was a friend of mine who immediately forwarded along the message back to me, with a puzzled comment, “What the heck is all of this about?” I could only shake my head.

We further know that they have attempted to torpedo DxE events by reaching out to folks working with us and spreading rumors about our supposedly racist connections (even after repeatedly ensuring us in person that the bad behavior would stop). Non-DxE activists in Seattle and Vancouver, among other places, have written to us warning us that there are people within the movement seeking to destroy DxE -- and having some success at doing so. 

Faced with criticisms of their own practices, a group of primarily white activists threatened to "out" three DxE members -- all women of color -- for participation in a Taiji slaughter campaign. 

And we finally know that all of this appears to have been started with a simple conversation about being Asian in America. Jake recently wrote to me and Priya dismissing our concerns about racism against Asians and warning us that, if we continued on this path,  “things are going to get messy.” He then sent a photo of Priya and two other DxE members, Danielle and Damayanti -- all people of color, incidentally – at a Taiji slaughter protest under a banner that said “Shame on Japan." 

Both Priya and I perceived this as a threat, and surprise, surprise, the photo was posted publicly by Jake’s roommate the next day on Facebook, along with a comment condemning racism within the movement. The irony of singling out the only three people of color at a huge Taiji demonstration for racism would be funny… if it weren’t also so incredibly hurtful and false. In fact, what the photo (which was taken long before DxE even existed) leaves out is that all three women got into a dispute with the organizer (who provided most of the signs) about anti-Japanese messaging at the protest, and attempted to hand out information targeting Western abuses of animals, as well. 

The important point, however, is not in the specifics. The important point is that this entire episode reveals how deeply problematic and shallow our race politics often are -- even, and perhaps especially, among those who are nominally interested in anti-racism. Are we a movement that will start taking race seriously, and address concerns about race with open-mindedness and integrity? Or are we a movement that sees race politics as some sort of game of hot potato that can be tossed back and forth in a competition of racial one-upsmanship?

The former approach offers us a path forward. The latter perspective will only continue the disturbing trend of performing whiteness.

I believe that our movement can do better. We can have serious and constructive discussions about race that do not devolve into hateful personal attacks and rumors. We can build bridges even where there are serious disagreements about strategy. And we can start making a movement for everyone – not just the white folks who have traditionally dominated our ranks. But it starts with a willingness to engage in dialogue. So Jake, Amy, Jordan, I will ask you again, instead of attacking people in DxE with rumors in the wind, let’s sit down and talk instead? The animals – and all the other oppressed peoples of this earth – deserve at least that much.

 
The Bigotry Within

What the past few decades have taught me is that the bigotry that lies within is the most dangerous to making true progress for the oppressed. Those who actively attack animals or people of color openly and publicly, e.g. Glenn Beck, are not much of a concern. The attention – and bad reputation – they give to discriminatory beliefs is wonderful fodder for our movements. The more troubling thing is when people who insist they are not speciesist or racist – the animal-lover who raves about the humane meat at Chipotle, or the avowed “anti-racist” who actively engages in racist campaigning – support these violently oppressive systems… and then just as violently attempt to destroy those who raise a serious and heartfelt concern.

Progress on these issues requires us to address the bigotry within our movements – and not just without. And that is a painful process. I know this because I went through the process myself. For most of my life, I hated being Chinese. I looked at the few Chinese people I grew up with with contempt. I went out of my way to avoid Chinese foods, culture, and people. And I accepted the values imposed on me by the dominant American culture – that playing football was more important than math, that success could be measured by individual accomplishment rather than community empowerment, and that charisma and talent were more valuable than nose-to-the-grindstone effort.  In short, I was performing whiteness.


Even after readings in college politically awakened me to the world of anti-discrimination (and ultimately, anti-speciesism), there was a difference between my stated values and my emotions. I still felt embarrassed, for example, when I walked through the din of Chinatown. I felt disgust when I saw another video of Asian people hurting animals. And I felt ashamed when I looked around me, in the social movements that I was working in, and saw nary a colored face.  In the recesses of my mind, I secretly still feared that, perhaps, white people truly were better than the rest of us.

DxE has transformed that. The theory that I never dared to test – that animal rights activists could be found on all nations and continents, and from all cultures, races, and creeds – has now been tested, and we have passed with flying colors. I now realize that I never should have worried at all. We can speak proudly for animals – and for our own people – and be confident that we can find allies of every race. No more apologies. No more begging. No more fear and shame. Liberation is born from confidence and honesty, from shining the light of truth onto even the darkest recesses of the human condition.

If I could go back, then, to my teenage self… to the self-loathing Chinese boy, I would share three lessons that I have learned, lessons that I think the entire animal rights movement can apply.

The first is that oppression is, in fact, everywhere, and that we don’t have to be scared or ashamed to admit this. It’s in the unthinkingly violent Chinese man who skins a dog without a second thought. It’s in the angry white bully who pummels a poor Asian kid in a gym class in Indiana. It’s even in a radical anti-racist activist who has spent her entire life thinking about justice but, somehow, doesn’t have any non-white friends. The reason for this is that oppression is systemic, not individual; and as individuals who are fundamentally shaped by the systems in which we live, we can’t avoid the system’s impacts on our beliefs, on our behaviors, and even in our most basic emotional reactions. (For example, having grown up in America, the Western preference for dogs may remain forever imprinted in my mind. Though I love hens dearly, I fear that I will never emotionally respond to a chicken the way that I respond to my dogs Lisa and Natalie. That is speciesism.)

The second lesson is that contesting this oppression is hard, and requires a constructive and open-minded outlook. Performing whiteness – the elevation of white and Western perspectives – is in fact just one instance of deep and insidious discrimination. Performing maleness. Performing straightness. Performing humanness. Each is an equally important frontier of social justice. When our most basic assumptions about life – that traditional American practices are superior, that men are stronger or smarter than women, that alternative sexual behavior is disgusting, or that meat is just “food” and not the body of a murder victim – are dictated by unspoken systemic bias, we have to dig deep into ourselves and think hard about our own beliefs and behaviors to uproot discrimination and make real and permanent change.

Animal rights activists come from all nations and continents, all cultures and creeds. And we are speaking with one voice for animal liberation. 


The third and most important lesson, however, is that there is hope in the intersection of all of these struggles, and in the progress that has already been made. My father never became a leader, but he still survived in a country that, just a generation ago, barred everyone of his race from entering its borders. My mother never became a math professor, but she was an astonishingly successful small businessperson in a state where both Asians and women faced obstacles that I can only imagine. As our movement grows, it touches people across the world, and relates the animals’ struggles to their own. When we recognize the commonality of oppression, we also recognize the commonality of liberation. We recognize that direct action is, in fact, everywhere. And in the brilliant connections that are made, we will light the path to liberation.  

Is there a place in animal rights for a kid from China? Part II: Orphans of the Left

Is there a place in animal rights for a kid from China?  
Part II: Orphans of the Left

by Wayne Hsiung

(Check out Part I and Part III of the series as well.) 
 

When I was growing up in central Indiana, my family, like many immigrant families, was alienated from the white communities that surrounded us. My parents have never had a white friend. Heck, they have never, as far as I know, been invited to a white social gathering. Worse yet, living in central Indiana, where people of color were basically nonexistent, there was not even a ghetto for us to retreat to. We lived, for all intents and purposes, in isolation.

Alienated from the surrounding community, my family sought support from within. 

Isolation breeds fear. Fear of the uncertain. Fear of the unknown. Fear of those tall, sun-splashed, statuesque white people who seemed to effortlessly walk through a world that, to us, was terrifying and foreign. From our broken English to our sloppy immigrant clothes, we stuck out like sore thumbs. So it was with great trepidation that I made my first entrance into the white world: first grade.

It did not go well. On the first day, the kids looked at me with curiosity. I could see their strange glances, and hear their whispers. And it did not take long for one of them to finally pop the question.

“What’s with your eyes?” a girl asked me at lunch.

“My eyes?” I mumbled in broken English.

“I mean, what’s with your eyes?” the girl asked again, this time with a slightly mocking smile.

Fighting tears, I looked away from her and tried to focus back on my food. But the chatter continued. I noticed the girl and her friends using their fingers to bend their eyes upward, to mimic the slanty shape of the stereotypical Chinese eye. They later pulled me over to perform the infamous limerick -- “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees” (with eyes pulled up, then down, then hands placed on the knees) – that to this day makes no sense to me at all.

Except that it sort of did make sense because, from that day, the pattern was set: I was expected to perform whiteness, i.e. to normalize and privilege Western attributes and perspectives above all others. 

It would take a book to describe the humiliations I faced over the next 10 years. But though I suffered many episodes of physical violence, the worst incidents – the incidents that remain deeply engraved in my mind and that still wake me up screaming in the night – always involved the way I looked. Eyes were only the beginning. Kids asking why I dressed the way I did. Why my hair was so “geeky” (i.e. stiff, straight, and un-stylish). And whether my “cum was yellow, too” – an insult that, being a naïve Asian kid, I did not even understand until I went off to college. It got so bad that, for years, I would hide in the stalls of the bathroom. There, I would sit on the toilet, trembling, and tear at my own hair and skin (sometimes to the point of bleeding). I would sit, trembling and crying, and plead to myself, “Why can’t I just be white?”

In the 2000 presidential election, candidate John McCain explained that he "hates gooks" - a racial slur used against Asian people. The mainstream media yawned. 

The strange thing about all of this was that the town I grew up in, Carmel, had a reputation for being less ignorant than the surrounding areas. It was where the “educated” people lived. Indeed, that was precisely why my parents chose to make Carmel their home. But while discussions of racism did enter into our curriculum – even in conservative, white Indiana, Martin Luther King, Jr. was lionized as a hero – it was something that was remote, abstract, and almost mythological. It was never something that students, particularly of Asian descent, could actually be hindered by.

And so, even when a bully was battering my face and screaming that I was an ugly chink – which happened on more than one occasion – it never occurred to me that the problem was racial.

“It’s just me,” I told myself. “If only I weren’t so stupid, so ugly, so clueless.” If only I could properly play white.

And my experience is not unique. Millions of Asians across the country face the same struggle. The mainstream media loves to promote the myth of the model minority. We are the chosen colored people. The people who have assimilated, adopted Western norms and habits, achieved social and economic power, and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams! Bill O’Reilly blabbed to Jon Stewart recently about so-called “Asian privilege,” and even some progressive writers have begun talking about “Asian as the new white.”

There’s just one little problem: the facts.  

Consider:

-  A frightening 68% of the American public has “very negative” or “somewhat negative” views of Chinese Americans, and those views extend to Chinese in leadership positions (with over 50% more people saying they would be uncomfortable with a Chinese president than a black president).

- Asians are represented at lower rates in positions of power despite having higher educational status. Asians comprise 0.3% of corporate officers relative to 5% of the population – a 17x difference. (The comparable rate for women, who are also discriminated against, is 14.6%, relative to 50.9% of the population -- a 3x difference.)

- Asians are paid lower wages for equal work, even in industries such as Tech (where Asians make $8,146 less than white workers, compared to a $3,656 gap for Black employees, a $6,907 gap for those whose race is "other,” and a $6,358 gap for women).

- Asians have far lower representation in the mainstream media and other public roles than other races. (One prototypical example: in its four-season run, the popular television show The OC did not have a single Asian face, despite depicting a region of California, Orange County, filled with over half a million Asian people. The Asians literally just disappeared.)


- Victims of bullying in schools are “disproportionately Asian.” Those of us who grew up in white schools know this very well: we are perceived as weak, and the first targets on every violent bully’s list.

- Asians (particularly men) suffer from the strongest bias in measures of attraction. ("[O]ur main finding is that Asians generally receive lower ratings than men of other races. In fact, when we run the regressions separately for each race, we find that even Asian women find white, black, and Hispanic men to be more attractive than Asian men.") 

- Asians are socially excluded at higher rates than any other race in simple tests of implicit bias, even in the ivory tower. I saw this when I was in graduate school. Asians had to work twice as hard as white kids to get attention from star professors, and even then, we were invariably perceived as robotic drones.

And then there is, of course, what happens in, well, Asia. Nearly one billion people in my home continent (70% of the world’s total) live in extreme poverty, defined as less than $1.25 a day in income. That is just the tip of the iceberg because millions more don’t meet the criteria for “extreme poverty” but nonetheless suffer under the crushing weight of Western hegemony.

Some recent examples:  Twelve hundred people are killed in the collapse of a dilapidated garment factory for huge American corporations such as Sears and Walmart (who don’t even bother to compensate the grieving families for their loss). Employees at an Apple factory toss themselves off the roof of their workplace, in a desperate attempt to escape slave-labor working conditions. (Apple CEO Steve Jobs responds by saying, “For a factory, it’s pretty nice.”) Hundreds of workers are locked into a factory making American handbags, for all but 60 minutes a day, and face beatings if they dare challenge their confinement.

Every now and then, ever so briefly, the suffering of Asia blinks into American view. But it is just as quickly forgotten.

We tell ourselves that what happens in Asia is a product of Asia. But it’s not. In fact, the abuses in Asia are the direct result of, not just corporate practices, but widespread indifference to the plight of people who are seen as “perpetual foreigners” even in our own country. It’s a result, in short, of the global pull of performing whiteness. Consider some perspectives from Asians in America.

“The West has taken our best and our brightest – the leaders of Asia – and turned them into servants to white people.”

- A friend of my father’s contrasting life in Asia with life in the West. Like so many Asians, and despite exceptional performance, my father and his friends were relegated to non-leadership roles throughout their careers.

“I have no idea where we can live if we have to leave here. We're hoping not to sleep in the street.”  

- Poon Heung Lee, an 80-year-old retired hotel housekeeper, after being evicted from his San Francisco apartment along with his 48-year-old mentally disabled daughter. Countless other families in historically Chinese neighborhoods have been physically forced out of their homes due to the Ellis Act. (Yes, the very neighborhoods that the racist tour guide last week told to “F--k off.” She, and many other people, are getting their wish.)

“I’m in pain, but they don’t believe me. They tell me, stop faking.”

- Hiu Lui Ng, undocumented immigrant who was shockingly seized after 17 years in this country at his final green card interview, taken from his wife and two young children, and thrown into a grim detention center. After nearly a year languishing in the facility, and despite his cries of excruciating pain, Ng was dragged from his cell because he could not stand on his own power. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with a broken spine and liver cancer, which killed him five days after the diagnosis. As with the Vincent Chin beating and death, the government responded with a collective, “Who cares?"

In short, Asia and Asians have been forced into the most humiliating positions, used to serve Western capitalism, confined in spaces no living being should be forced to endure, kicked out of our homes when the land is needed for more powerful peoples, and even murdered in cold blood. And yet the American Left is unmoved. Indeed, the American Left hardly even remembers that we exist.

Sound familiar? It should. Because there’s another group that suffers from the same problem to a much more severe and horrific degree.

Animals.


Invisible Oppression

Readers of this blog do not need me to recount the horrific details. 10 billion land animals killed in the United States. Hundreds of millions more for fur, experimentation, and entertainment. Even dogs and cats, our beloved family members, are murdered by the millions every year – all for the crime of being born to a different species. But the most heartbreaking stories are always those of individuals. Two are particularly salient.

A poor cow is forced to witness the violent end of her friend. And she's next in line. 

In a recent video, a poor cow is forced to witness violent men murder her friend. She struggles to escape the slaughter line, to stay as far away from the room where death awaits. But she is eventually shocked with an electric prod into the chamber where she will meet her end.  You see the fear in her eyes, as she desperately tries to turn and escape. 

The second is the story of the so-called last pig. A baby pig, surrounded by the dead bodies of her friends, screams and scrambles desperately as men approach to take her body and flesh. These are not screams of physical pain. They are screams of terror and fear… the screams of a gentle soul who cannot bear to face her oppressors alone…. the cries of someone who desperately needs a friend with her as she faces an unspeakable end.

When I see the world through these animals’ eyes, I can barely maintain my composure. I think back to the moments in life where I have lived in fear, in isolation, in terror of imminent violence, and I can barely stop myself from screaming out, at the top of my lungs, “JESUS CHRIST! WHAT THE F--K IS GOING ON? SOMEONE STOP THIS NOW!” 

My friend Lisa put it very well, when I talked to her recently about her evolution towards animal rights consciousness. When she first saw what happened in a slaughterhouse, she cried out in her head, "Nothing could be more evil in the world!" I wholeheartedly agree.

And yet, despite the horrific evil that  surrounds us, oppression of animals, like discrimination against Asians, is largely ignored. Approximately 2% of the American population has taken the small step of declining to consume the bodies of animals. Even in that small sliver, only a small percentage endorse true animal rights or species equality. And finally, there is the sliver of the sliver: those proud few who have committed to take a stand

Abandoned by the Left, you might think that Asians and animal rights activists would be allies. But instead, we have the opposite.

In fact, a list of the most hate-filled animal rights campaigns almost invariably includes a long line of Asian targets. The slaughter of elephants and rhinos for "trinkets." The deforestation of orangutan habitat for palm oil. The primate trade in China. The list of Asian targets is like the animal rights movement’s Most Wanted. And even when the organizers of such campaigns expressly disavow racism, hateful sentiments always bubble up.

Take dog meat. Perhaps the most prominent international animal rights organization on the planet, with a reputation for being effective, ethical, and thoughtful, took on the issue last year. And they did so with the highest and most ethical purpose in mind – to extend consideration and equality to all animals, not just the dogs and cats that Westerners traditionally have loved.

And yet a brief perusal of responses to their campaign media shows a torrent of violent and racist rhetoric. A commenter (approved by 225 people) calls the Chinese “weak cowards” and asks “Why are they allowing these scum bags to exist?” (One wonders if Americans are cowards, too, for killing and eating over 100% more animals than the average Chinese.) Another comment with the text “Go to hell, China!” and “Hang them all, devils” is approved by an astonishing 131 people on the page. (Ironic, given the hanging dog in the image.) And perhaps most perversely of all, “I always wanted to go to China, I will not set foot in that place! They are a disgrace to humankind and in fact don't deserve to even to referred to as human!” (A strange thing for an activist for non-human animals to say. After all, while we Chinese are, in fact, human, what’s wrong with being non-human?)

And this, of course, is by an organization that is doing a “foreign” campaign as ethically as it can possibly be done. For example, the campaign included Chinese activists and voices in its materials, emphasized that Western countries also engage in violent practices toward animals, and expressly disavowed any sort of racist rhetoric or messaging.

But if you have been following this blog, you should not be surprised. After all, when 68% of the public un-apologetically holds negative views of Asians, when many more who disavow conscious prejudice nonetheless show dramatic evidence of implicit bias (e.g. refusing to even talk to someone simply because of their ethnic face or name), and when an entire continent remains under the heel of the Western powers that have ruled the world for hundreds of years, should we be surprised when campaigns that target foreigners... trigger anti-foreigner hatred or even violence?

It should also be no surprise when Asians, and other minority communities targeted by the animal rights movement’s ire, don’t take well to these campaigns. Indeed, one begins to wonder what self-respecting person of color would even consider becoming an animal rights activist in the first place. My cousins asked me if I was performing whiteness. But perhaps they should have been harsher on me: Am I betraying my own heritage, culture and people… betraying my own non-whiteness…. by fighting for animal rights?

 

Next: Part III: The Path Forward.


Allies and Images: The Importance of Communicating the Victim's Personhood

Allies and Images: The Importance of Communicating the Victim's Personhood

By Kelly Atlas

It is very common in the animal rights movement for human activists to show images of exploited animals in the process of their degradation. We use these images in the hopes that they will evoke in others the sympathy that they evoke in ourselves. However, if the viewer is as speciesist as our society makes most of us, the effect may be the opposite.

DxE tested this hypothesis by exploring people's receptiveness to liberationist ideology once primed by one of four kinds of images: 1) A photo of graphic violence against a nonhuman; 2) a quote on animal rights by a figure of authority; 3) a perspective-shifting image of an animal that shows something of who the animal is; and 4) a control image. Though the study was small in scope, preliminary results suggest that graphic images made people more aversive than the control group to nonhuman rights, while images that demonstrated the individual's personality primed people to be more receptive to the anti-speciesist questions asked.

With that effect demonstrated, allow me to explain my concerns with showing graphic images.

While many of us have felt that films like Earthlings or short videos like “From Farm to Fridge” were incredibly emotionally motivating for us, that can only be the case for someone who already understands that those animals can suffer and who already regards them as mattering morally. Unless someone can recognize the subjectivity and personhood of the animal whose body is being violated, that person will not be able to recognize the act of violence against the animal as violence any more than he or she regards the picking of a pear from its tree as violence.

Even if we are predisposed to recognize and have concern for the violence, unless we are presented with a clear solution to it (liberation, sanctuaries), and unless we have access to an anti-speciesist community for social support, we are likely to shut down our emotional response to the violence out of a basic psychological need to stay sane in the overwhelming face of an unfathomably massive atrocity. Horrific, graphic images can trigger defense mechanisms that make people shy away from the scene, thereby discouraging engagement with the liberationist message and political activity. (By liberationist "political activity" I refer to any openly anti-speciesist action: an act of protest, a personal communication of rejection of speciesism, helping refugees at sanctuaries, and so forth.)

I am also concerned that repeatedly seeing images of people of a given group (nonhumans) being objectified by one's own group (humans) may normalize their objectification in the viewer's mind. There is only "shock value" in these violent images because the violence is kept out of sight; but note that in cultures where it is in sight, it still happens. Even if a first glimpse into a slaughterhouse is morally shocking for the typical human in our society who has never witnessed the violence, that shock value will wear off as increased exposure to such images only decreases sensitivity to the violence. That is a serious threat to the movement, because we need people to empathize with the victims and care about the violence being done to them if they are going to demand its end. Only when people recognize that each of these animals is a someone who does not want to die and has a right to live will they be able to acknowledge that violence against them is wrong. Violence against nonhumans is not a result of slaughterhouses having opaque walls; it is the result of a pervasive ideology that reduces nonhumans to commodities. Images of animals being treated as commodities do not challenge the speciesist thinking that enables that violence.

Additionally, we do not want to risk making people associate the nonhumans for whom we fight with the sensations of revulsion and disgust that they experience when looking at gory images.

In the aim of checking our own speciesism and not reinforcing frames of mind that treat nonhumans and humans differently, it is important to point out that culturally, we rarely, if ever, show photos of the dead bodies of degraded humans who were raped, lynched, or murdered out of hatred. Most of the "graphic" imagery that we do share of human conflicts at least shows the emotional devastation on the face of a living human in the scene. (This is the case for victims who we already mostly recognize as people.) Showing the objectified, violated bodies of anonymous, non-individualized nonhuman beings is speciesist behavior; and so even just for that, it is not likely to help us confront and dismantle the speciesism system.

Finally, showing these people as victims – instead of showing images of them resisting, escaping, and empowering themselves against their oppressors – renders their own agency invisible, disempowering them. Past movements were not won by "saviours" from the oppressing class, but by the oppressed themselves – and allies who empowered them.

So, we must use images that tell the story of who someone is, that make their personhood recognizable, that help viewers empathize with them, and that help viewers listen to them. If and when we do share images of nonhumans being violently violated, we must carefully contextualize them by first showing images of those (or similar-looking) nonhumans experiencing joy and the positive emotions we associate with personhood, or otherwise demonstrate that they are emotionally rich individuals. If and when we do share contextualized violent images, we should make every effort to use images that show the emotion on that person's face. Remember, the external conditions being imposed on them are not nearly so important as what that makes them experience internally; the latter is why the former matters at all.

We are these animals' allies. We are here to open up space for their silenced voices to be heard. It is our responsibility to show these animals not as the objects they are presently treated as, but as the persons as whom they want to be seen. (Yes, when they cry for their lives, they are very much asking to be regarded as persons; they are most certainly asking to be listened to.) People will not be able to maximally empathize with nonhumans until they recognize them as other people.

So show the world what's really happening. Show humans what they otherwise would not see... by showing them that a chimpanzee and a chicken are people, too.

Dramatize the Issue

Dramatize the Issue (by Kelly)

UPDATE: Glenn Beck personally spent twelve minutes on his talk show talking about the disruption (hatefully, in perfect human supremacist fashion, though with an interesting acknowledgement of how he was taught speciesism).

I have adopted three little girls. One is a dog. Two are chickens. All are family.

You know how that is. Heck, most of America knows how that is where their dog or cat is concerned. The trouble is, we've learned to be so speciesist that we have a hard time seeing a chicken for the social, gentle, loving, clever little girl she is, because we're taught that only animals like "dog" and "cat" are "friend" but other animals like "cow" and "chicken" are called "food" instead -- without ever bothering to listen to what that animal has to say about it, when she cries out in a very clear call for help before a human kills her for his pleasure.

Well, last weekend, with other liberationists at my back, I went into a space that normalizes violence against animals who are not named "human" or "dog" or "cat" and I told the people there (and the people to view the video on the Internet) the story of one of my little girls.

Today it was widely publicized through a conservative web publication, namely by bullies eager to demonstrate their human supremacism, in tandem with threats of violence ("get between me and cooked meat, and i'll show you some violence" and "go away, woman, before we barbeque you") as well as a dash of misogyny ("sorry, but I don't trust females with little boy haircuts" and "crazed woman"), of course. (The publication's Facebook post is here.)

Other leftists, take note: If Glenn Beck's camp hates us this much, we're probably doing something extremely progressive. Leftist politics have everything to do with not treating others badly just because we can -- being against discrimination and violence is core to our position. And it's quite apparently antithetical to theirs, which is why they hate the threat of empathy that we embody. They believe that violence is a joke.

And to the #FirstWorldProblems comment, while I personally have that privilege, it is not hard to find animal rights activists and ethical vegans and anti-speciesist sentiment in any human society, and no actually, the hashtag doesn't justify dismissing the issue and the voices of those who are crying out for help just because they aren't humans. All oppression has the same ideological roots, we can't just fix the "human" problems first and then move on to the other animals. And we certainly shouldn't continue actively harming other animals just because other human animals are still being oppressed, there is no logic to that, unless it's okay to beat and rape and kill me because there are still men who experience oppression at the hands of some other logic of domination and they're just that much more important than me. And we should not judge that one person's suffering is more important than the suffering of any one or one billion others just because that person occupies a privileged class that the others do not.

The #FirstWorldProblems hashtag is used by people complaining about something that happened to them that they acknowledge is trivial. Nothing has happened to me. I have the privileges of being a human in a human supremacist society. The grievance here is from someone who is crying out for help as she desperately tries to escape being murdered. (And currently humans are not listening to her -- rather, we're silencing her -- so I am trying to use my voice to make space for hers.) That's not a triviality. She wants to live, she wants freedom, she wants to be loved, just like you and I and our dog friends. Really, the Blaze article itself should be hastagged #humanproblems, because it's just humans complaining about other humans trying to stop them from engaging in gratuitous acts of violence that they only can participate in because they are humans in a human supremacist society.

Basically all the other comments I've seen are straw humans and attempts at diversion and other obvious fallacies or just plain trolling.

While the speciesist hate speech in the comments may be enraging and disheartening, it is important to remember that confrontations like these and the others we do function to force the issue onto the table. And clearly, people are talking about it, it's not a non-issue that they're dismissing anymore. Instead, they're feeling pressure and retaliating. The animal rights movement is growing and everyone can see that happening.

(I'd like to note too that we should consider it an indication that our message is strong when the opposition themselves reiterates in our terms our attitude that Snow is a "somebody" rather than a something.)

As activists who engage in nonviolent direct action like the activists of the anti-oppression movements before us, we are here to get the dialogue moving, to get the animals' voices on the tables beside their bodies. And it's working. We're here to polarize the debate so people have to take a side and fight for it, and look at how the human supremacists are letting their colours show -- the animals' opponents are making it very clear that they are just violent, oppressive, hateful bullies who aren't particularly interested in empathy, rational conversation, or new ways of thinking. They're very actively and proudly in favor of hurting defenseless animals who just want to live, and they're aggressive towards humans who peacefully speak of a world without cruelty to animals. They're bullies, to the nonhumans and to their human allies. Seriously, whether you read our history books or just watch the movies we make, I think we are all equipped to determine who the bad guy in this story is.

No, this won't be easy. What movement against violent oppression ever was?

Yes, there is hope. Oh, so much of it. Why?

"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored." (Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter From a Birmingham Jail)

They're not exactly ignoring it.

(PS: The original video is on Facebook and YouTube.)

#DisruptSpeciesism

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#disruptspeciesism (by Kelly)

Not to knock the "Ice Bucket Challenge" (too much, at least), but when I saw how viral that was going, I figured what we should really be doing if we want to improve the world is "challenging" ourselves to take actions that have a few elements missing from that campaign.

We should be doing actions that do not overvalue money by framing donations as the answer to our problems; that are relevant to the problems we have, rather than just being gimmicks that attract attention to themselves (as opposed to inspiring greater interest in the cause); that do not make people feel so good about doing pretty much nothing that they have even less incentive than normal to actually get up and do something impactful; that do not fund the exploitation of our nonhuman sisters and brothers, of course; and, well, that are actually some measure of "challenge" to the participants, because no real change comes without a struggle.

So we decided to challenge everyone to go solo or with other activists (in addition to a cameraperson) into a space that normalizes speciesist violence and oppression, and disrupt it.

(This will also be the theme of our next International Day of Action in September.)

Many of us have been going to higher-end restaurants, as they tend to come with the most drama. People with all the privileges in the book tend to be really protective of those privileges, and it makes for videos with high sharing potential, expanding the reach of our message of liberation for all. (And people who want to participate in the challenge but are less comfortable with that level of confrontation can still do -- as others have done! -- a disruption in a less dramatic, more casual take-out restaurant like -- you guessed it -- Chipotle.)

As MLK said: "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored."

A peek at some of the disruptions:

Priya (Oakland)
Missy and Lola (San Luis Obispo)
Nick (Inland Empire)
Diane (San Francisco)
Wayne (Baltimore)
Glenn (Los Angeles)
Adrienne (Sacramento)

Follow the hashtag #disruptspeciesism on Facebook to see more disruptions: www.facebook.com/hashtag/disruptspeciesism

Solidarity with Nonhuman Animals – Create, Occupy, and Claim Spaces

Solidarity with Nonhuman Animals – Create, Occupy, and Claim Spaces

by Darren Chang

If direct action for nonhuman animal liberation is to be everywhere, I argue that nonhuman animals must also be everywhere, at least in the tension-filled spaces during moments of political struggle (e.g. at a demonstration inside a restaurant that normalizes violence against nonhumans). 

In May 2014, DxE kindly gave me an opportunity to present and discuss my paper, “Creating Space and Building Solidarity with Lab Rats.” The paper engages with the animal welfare science experiments my colleagues Joyce and Joanna had done with rats. By demonstrating the cognitive complexities of rats, Joyce and Joanna aimed to convince scientists to end the use of rats in torturous scientific experiments. In order to study the rats’ emotions and behaviours, Joyce and Joanna had to create spaces to enable and empower the rats to express and perform behaviours normally made invisible inside tiny lab cages. To achieve the common political aim of lab rat liberation, Joanna, Joyce, and the rats had to form trusting interdependent relationships; the rats needed Joyce and Joanna to create spaces where their desires could be performed and communicated, and Joyce and Joanna needed the rats’ performances in order to show them to the world.

 Interdependent relationships are key to achieving solidarity with animals. 

Interdependent relationships are key to achieving solidarity with animals. 

For far too long, many animal liberationists continue to believe that nonhumans depend on us humans for their liberation, that the dependency is unidirectional, that we the humans are the “voice of the voiceless.” The take-away from Joyce and Joanna’s relationship with rats is that we, the humans who self-identify as animal liberationists, are the ones dependent on nonhuman animals, and we need the nonhumans to participate in their struggle. How we could practically achieve this, as allies rather than saviours, comes down to how creative we can get in bringing nonhuman presence into diverse spaces, where their agency can be performed.

It takes boundary-breaking creativity to create spaces where animals’ voices can be heard, where their agency and presence can be felt. These spaces could be virtual or physical, to be experienced through various senses. We are already familiar with classic examples of occupying spaces with animal imagery (on physical posters or digital images, often accompanied by texts), or displaying videos showing animal agency on both social media or in a physical space. Perhaps it’s time for us to push the limits.

What if we could fight side by side with our nonhuman comrades in spaces that promote and perpetuate violence against them? What if we entered violent butcher shops, grocery stores, and restaurants with chickens, pigs, cows and fish to disrupt business-as-usual. What if we, human and nonhuman animals, occupied violent spaces together and momentarily claimed it for our voices to be heard?

Yes, the animals may be scared and stressed out in loud, unfamiliar environments. Yes, violent humans may try to hurt the animals. But what revolutionary struggle did not involve the oppressed to be vulnerable to dangers (not to mention hundreds of billions of them already face death and violence on a regular basis). To keep nonhumans sheltered under human protection when their presence is politically needed is to maintain the unequal power dynamics between privileged saviours and powerless, vulnerable victims.

Humans are only allies in the nonhuman animal liberation struggle. Perhaps it’s time for nonhuman animals to become animal liberationists themselves.

Portrait Banners

Portrait Banners

We have just started making a series of banners for our (and your!) actions, that feature dignified portraits of nonhumans, of various species of people who are exploited by humans for a variety of purposes.

Why make a series with “dignified,” portrait-like photos that have no indication of the violence? It's a similar motivation to the "Someone, Not Something" images we make and share on our Facebook page, and the placards we printed for our Stories of Liberation action: We want to challenge speciesism and demonstrate these beings' personhoods. In nonhuman advocacy, we habitually see images of these animals being victimized, and we think we should also be showing them how they should be, to share a story of how things could be. We also think it is important to contrast the prevalence of images of "what is" with such images of "what could be" in order to not normalize images of their subjugation, which may reinforce notions of the human-supremacy hierarchy if no alternative vision is posed. Further, in our confrontation of speciesism, we want to very clearly signal our own respect for these beings, to encourage other humans to do the same, by sharing representations of them as they want to be -- by showing images of animals who are not (at least in the moment of the photo) being subjugated and degraded.

I (Kelly here) also think of it like this: We humans who use photographs of ourselves typically want to present ourselves to others as a respectable, unique and personality-rich individuals. So as an exercise in nonspeciesism, if these animals had Facebook pages (just hear me out), judging by the kinds of images that we humans post of ourselves, it seems reasonable to assume that we’d be more likely to see images like these as their profile photos, as opposed to images of the individuals suffering and being dominated and demeaned -- the kind of image we tend to choose to not share of our own selves. Since we know these animals prefer respect and equality to degradation and subjugation, we should present images of them as they want to be seen by those who currently see them otherwise and oppress them because of that perception.

This is not to say that images of the violence are not valuable. (When they are not just a horrifying graphic scene, that is, but images that clearly show the personhood and emotional experience of the victim.) We just want to make sure that we also show these animals as they want to be seen, and as they want to be, could be, and will be at the end of our story. To bring about species equality, we have to make it clear to people that our nonhuman sisters and brothers are people too.

So, here they are! If you follow our Organizing Principles, you are free to use any materials we create. Direct Action Everywhere is YOU!