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Speciesism

A Roadblock in the Intersection

A Roadblock in the Intersection

I recently wrote to a popular feminist group about the intersection of sexism and speciesism.

Their response was problematic.

The group shares a great deal of analytical material on intersectionality within the humans species, and I was deeply disappointed by their unwillingness to consider the role of a widespread form of discrimination, dominance, and violence in patriarchal culture.

They chose to not critically analyze the status quo's position that might makes right, that sexual exploitation is okay (remember, the dairy industry actually calls it a "rape rack"), that killing someone who does not want to die for profit (power) is acceptable, and that domination is fine in the case of some groups of beings being victimized. Instead, they quite confusingly asserted that speaking up for ALL females is not intersectional, because that would infringe on the cultural norms of some violently dominant beings.

The subjugation of the human female body by the dominant male body will never stop unless we address the subjugation of the nonhuman body by the dominant human body. (Remember too that investigations of dairy farms routinely catch farmers hitting the female cows while calling them "cunt" and "whore" and other misogynist terms of subjugation. And what is a "bitch" but a being who resists the man trying to forcibly use her body for his profit?)

The person I communicated with wrote the following in response to my suggestion that they consider and share this article: "We are unable to post this article, because it does not support our mission of being inclusive and intersectional. We can't be prescriptive about eating, because meat-eating is important to a lot of cultures, and we're a global and intersectional collective."

Right, because nothing any feminist ever does puts the needs of the oppressed before things like "culture"?

And "meat-eating"? You mean "animal-eating." You mean "weaker-being-killing." You mean "speciesism." You mean "violence." You mean "dominance." You mean "subjugation." And you mean "patriarchy." Check that human privilege. Feminists must speak up against ALL oppression.

When we reduce animals to "meat" and talk about how (and "what") people eat, we set up a framing that allows people to perceive our assertion that dominance, violence, and discrimination are unjust as being non-intersectional, because they're not thinking about that dominance, violence, and discrimination. They're locked in their speciesist society's insistence that animals are ours to use.

NO ONE is anyone else's to use.

I hope that all self-indentified feminists will continue to speak up about the intersections of oppression, and further -- as this is the only way we will dismantle misogynist culture -- to come to speak up for all females, and against all subjugation.

And it is our responsibility as advocates of justice to always challenge ourselves, each other, and others to consider and combat the intersections of all oppressions.

-Kelly

Challenging Our Own Status Quo

Challenging Our Own Status Quo

Speciesism is the underlying disease of which all human exploitation of nonhumans is a symptom. If our goal as liberationists is to dissolve speciesism, to bring about a robust cultural change that will ensure lasting change for the animals, then the perspective of the "animal rights" movement and its advocates needs to shift:

Right now the dominant perspective, goal and message is about limiting the number of future animals brought into the world. ("Go vegan" and "this company kills animals but we'll ignore that and praise it for the plant-based option they offer on the chance that someone who is not yet ethically aligned with the idea that violence against animals is wrong might purchase it instead of a violent option, thereby slightly reducing the demand for more future violence."*)

We need to shift that to a focus on how the rights of the trapped animals who are suffering and crying and being forced onto a kill floor at this very moment are being violated. The goal here is to get people to realize that the violence is wrong and that these animals are in a state of emergency and need to be fought for. These stakes are much higher, which makes this framing much more compelling. Not only will the currently popular goal of reducing the demand for exploited animals be achieved through this pushing of anti-speciesist, anti-violent ideology anyways, but this is how we will actively combat the disease of speciesism, instead of just pumping drugs into the system to relieve a few symptoms.

•Kelly
*Just to be brutally redundant with this: No one who has decided to stop eating animals and products of their exploitation is going to buy a burrito with someone's flesh in it, and no one is going to decide to stop eating animals because they ate a single plant-based burrito. People don't need convenient access to nonviolent food options, they need motivation to not by violence-based products. What they need (and what the animals need from them, in the interest of a cultural shift in how humans perceive nonhumans) is to become ethically aligned with anti-speciesism. And even if one's goal is "more individual humans eating plants instead of animal products" then making anti-speciesists out of them is their most compelling reason to do that.

What William Lloyd Garrison Would Say About Chipotle

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When I think about how aggressively we should confront prejudices within our own movement, I know that I -- like most people -- tend toward compromise. "People don't change immediately," I tell myself. "And these are the good people in a world where so few people care about our cause." 

Then I'm hit with the startling historical example -- and phenomenal statistical success -- of William Lloyd Garrison. I blogged about the Garrison-Lundy debate a few days ago. But one cannot appreciate the intensity of the conflict until one reads Garrison's own words

I should oppose this Society [the ACS], even were its doctrines harmless. It imperatively and effectually seals the lips of a vast number of influential and pious men, who, for fear of giving offence to those slaveholders with whom they associate, and thereby leading to a dissolution of the compact, dare not expose the flagrant enormities of the system of slavery, nor denounce the crime of holding human beings in bondage. They dare not lead to the onset against the forces of tyranny; and if they shrink from the conflict, how shall the victory be won? I do not mean to aver, that, in their sermons, or addresses, or private conversations, they never allude to the subject of slavery; for they do so frequently, or at least every Fourth of July. But my complaint is, that they content themselves with representing slavery as an evil,—a misfortune,—a calamity which has been entailed upon us by former generations,—and not as an individual CRIME, embracing in its folds robbery, cruelty, oppression and piracy.

They do not identify the criminals; they make no direct, pungent, earnest appeal to the consciences of men-stealers; by consenting to walk arm-in-arm with them, they virtually agree to abstain from all offensive remarks, and to aim entirely at the expulsion of the free people of color; their lugubrious exclamations, and solemn animadversions, and reproachful reflections, are altogether indefinite; they 'go about, and about, and all the way round to nothing;' they generalize, they shoot into the air, they do not disturb the repose nor wound the complacency of the sinner; 'they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean.' Thus has free inquiry been suppressed, and a universal fear created, and the tongue of the boldest silenced, and the sleep of death fastened upon the nation. 'Truth has fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter.' The plague is raging with unwonted fatality; but no cordon sanitaire is established—no adequate remedy sought. The tide of moral death is constantly rising and widening; but no efforts are made to stay its desolating career. The fire of God's indignation is kindling against us, and thick darkness covers the heavens, and the hour of retribution is at hand; but we are obstinate in our transgression, we refuse to repent, we impiously throw the burden of our guilt upon our predecessors, we affect resignation to our unfortunate lot, we descant upon the mysterious dispensations of Providence, and we deem ourselves objects of God's compassion rather than of his displeasure!

Were the American Colonization Society bending its energies directly to the immediate abolition of slavery; seeking to enlighten and consolidate public opinion, on this momentous subject; faithfully exposing the awful guilt of the owners of slaves; manfully contending for the bestowal of equal rights upon our free colored population in this their native land; assiduously endeavoring to uproot the prejudices of society; and holding no fellowship with oppressors; my opposition to it would cease. It might continue, without censure, to bestow its charities upon such as spontaneously desire to remove to Africa, whether animated by religious considerations, or the hope of bettering their temporal condition. But, alas! its governing spirit and purpose are of an opposite character.

I've never wanted to be a trouble maker. And yet, Garrison's example shows that there are times when one has to take a strong stand -- even if that means attacking (implicitly or otherwise) those we see as allies. Garrison did not wait for the rest of his movement to "get it." He stood strongly for slave liberation and equality, in the face of a movement that sought to compromise with slaveholders, even when this meant trampling on former friends and allies. 

Garrison's path was not necessarily the best one. And my intuition is that there are better ways to push our movement toward greater confidence, strength, and integrity. Our campaign against Chipotle, for example, pushes a frontier issue -- humane meat -- but our intent is certainly not to attack any other animal rights group. However, maintaining a strong message, without stepping on toes or hurting feelings, is a delicate path. And all we can do is try -- and recognize that the criticism and conflict we fight through is worth it because, in the long run, it will make our movement brighter and stronger. 

Garrison was not afraid to step on toes and lose friends. We have to have that same confidence, even in the face of internal movement criticism, if we are going to match Garrison's astonishing success. 

 

Chipotle’s Seven Deadly Sins – What You Don’t Know about this Scarecrow May Kill You

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Chipotle’s Seven Deadly Sins – What You Don’t Know about this Scarecrow May Kill You

(Note: see a talk on this subject here.

Why protest Chipotle? We often get this question. On the face, Chipotle seems like a “good corporation.” They’re at least starting a conversation about animal welfare, right? And heck, they’re offering us a vegan burrito! But there are seven deadly sins, behind the glitzy marketing, that make Chipotle perhaps the most important target in the animal rights movement.

1. It’s one of the largest and fastest-growing animal killers in the world. It’s a $16 billion company -- the third largest publicly-traded restaurant company in the world -- and has grown by 1000% (yes, one thousand percent) in the past five years. If you’re concerned about animals being killed for food, this is where all the action is. Even just slowing Chipotle's growth by a few percentage points would imply tens of millions fewer animals slaughtered in its engine of violence. 

2. It’s lying to the public.  Its corporate motto is “Food with Integrity,” and it deliberately uses terms such as “natural” and “responsibly raised” that have no regulatory significance. It shows the world happy animals in sunlit fields. Yet even cattle industry publications point out that Chipotle sources from brutal, gruesome factory farms.

The  Chipotle Scarecrow : innocent look but deadly core. 

The Chipotle Scarecrow: innocent look but deadly core. 

3. It’s a leader in pro-meat propaganda.There was American Meat back in Feburary, which was described by the Village Voice as “exemplifying the history of meat production in the U.S., especially its innovations, by arguing that the industry is essential to the sustainability of our civilization.” There's the Cultivate festival, which is Chipotle's attempt to show the world that we can cultivate a better world by killing animals. More recently, they started putting up billboards that simply say "MEAT MEAT MEAT." (They're not afraid to lay it on hard, apparently.) 

4. It tries to buy off activists… and often succeeds. Despite its massive pro-meat propaganda machine, Chipotle has somehow earned supporters within the animal rights movement. It's an invasion of movement snatchers. And we can't let them succeed. Because if they do, they will have bought out our movement's greatest strengths: our integrity and our soul. 

.5. It has the most progressive and animal-friendly customers… and it preys on their ethical instincts. Chipotle's Culinary Manager Nate Appleman, in a moment of accidental honesty to the New York Times: “You put tripe in a bowl and tell them it’s from a humanely raised cow, and they’re going to eat it.”

They forgot to point out the  violence . 

They forgot to point out the violence

6. It makes killing animals more profitable. The average Big Mac costs $3.50 and hardly makes McDonald's a dime. Chipotle, in contrasts, charges almost $8 a burrito -- and makes a huge killing off the premium

7. It’s framing the debate as one of "food choice." But it's not food. It's violence. And it's violence that has to stop. 

We'll discuss these seven factors -- and perhaps just as important, what we can do to stop their dangerous impact --  in our open meeting on February 16

Feminism & Liberationism

Feminism & Liberationism

Last weekend, a few of our Organizers led a presentation and engaging discussion on the intersection of sexism and speciesism, and the importance of feminism to the animal liberation movement (and vis versa).

Download a PDF of the presentation and key discussion questions here!

Some of the key points we discussed:

  • Male-dominated sexism results in the subjugation of the nonmale body ("misogyny" or, systematically, "patriarchy") and human-dominated speciesism results in the subjugation of the nonhuman body. Both of these discriminations thrive on the principle of "might makes right." When fully realized, both discriminations render the "inferior" group as the property of the male human animal. Such a structuring of society "... is conceivable only in the context of a worldview in which bodies are things rather than selves” (Pattrice Jones).
  • These discriminations operate through the creation and assumption of false, Otherizing dualisms that deny the existence of gradation, such as: Male/female, white/nonwhite, human/animal (as though a chimpanzee is more closely related to a catfish than a human), reason/emotion, nature/culture. Sexism and speciesism are both products of this separation between two groups where one is elevated by normalizing the devaluation and subjugation of the other. Identifying someone as being "different enough" is used as a justification for treating them without consideration for their needs.

  • When images of nonhuman animals -- who have long been perceived as being inferior -- are applied to female human animals ("bitch"/"chick"/"cow"), women are rendered as being as inferior to men as those other animals are already assumed to be. Since those nonhumans are already perceived as things to use, such identifications imply that men are entitled to exploit women.

  • Woman as a “bitch” carries a misogynist implication which becomes even more clear when taken into consideration the ways in which breeders treat female dogs: Female dogs are not only things to use to attain profit, but are treated with contempt, because they actively fight back against their oppressors, refusing to be passively raped. (Note that the word "bitch" is typically used on women in a position of power -- the term is meant to suggest that the woman does not know her "place" as a subordinate.) Using the demeaning term also implies that how we treat that animal (and so by extension, how that woman being called a "bitch" is treated as a consequence for that non-normative female dominance) is inherently her fault -- the word suggests that she is simply by nature supposed to be raped and used as a machine for profit. This is victim-blaming.

  • As activists, we may feel compelled to "do whatever we can" for the animals, but it is imperative that we think critically about how our actions and behaviors might just counter-productively reinforce an oppressive norm -- thereby perpetuating all oppression, including our main target of speciesism.

  • Sexualizing violence against females human animals in the aim of "selling" the idea that violence against nonhuman animals is wrong is problematic. As is calling a female human who is wearing fur a “hag” or “cunt” (reducing her to her female-specific part and associating that female form with contempt). Wishing violence on her for that action is just as misogynist and problematic, and note that men wearing leather receive no such hateful sentiment, much less the subjugating words or expressions of a desire for violence to put their body in its “place.”

  • When we talk about females (human or not) and when we interact with humans of any sex or gender identity (activist or not), we have a responsibility to be mindful of how our words and behavior may be reinforcing oppressive partiarchal and speciesist norms.

  • As an activist group, we need to be mindful of our behaviors and help each other create and maintain a safe space where activists don’t feel subjugated by an objectifying male-dominated gaze, and where activists are able to express emotional authenticity.

  • As liberationists we also have a responsibility to not frame the animals we speak of with a lens that reinforces their objectification -- we must be careful to not use words and images that brutally reduce those individual someones to objects.

Buying our Movement

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I'm known for being a skeptical vegan. I'm committed to the lifestyle, for sure, and have been for  years (at times, it was perhaps counterproductive. There was a time when I refused to ride in buses or cars because of the stearic acid in rubber). But I've also publicly declared my misgivings about the vegan consumerist approach -- that is, celebrating, advocating, and enhancing the lifestyle of the vegan consumer -- to animal liberation. There are sound reasons for thinking that vegan consumerism is not a good frame for achieving animal liberation. But sometimes, I go further and describe it as an obstacle to the movement's success and growth. Why might that be the case? I'm reposting a recent discussion below: 

The danger is the same one that William Lloyd Garrison pointed to in advocating for (human) slaves almost 200 years ago. Transforming an urgent social justice movement into a tawdry consumer movement ("Please buy fewer slaves! You'll be such a good person if you do!") re-establishes the "anchoring point" for the movement from "We have to stop all violence" to "let's reduce violence a tiny bit -- but realistically, maybe not at all -- because we can't really expect anything more." 

That normative anchoring point, in turn, will transform the number and type of social messages that are circulated in local communities by activists, i.e. the crucial conversations on the ground between friends, relatives, and co-workers. They're suddenly not talking at all about (much less judging their peers for) the horrors and injustice of animal holocaust -- but instead about adding a vegan option, or a "humane meat" burrito, to the menu at Chipotle.

The movement's demand for change for animals is lost in a spiral of vegan self-indulgence. And individual supporters of the movement are dis-empowered from speaking more confidently against animal abuse. "Don't be one of the militant vegans," people say. "After all, you got your vegan burrito, didn't you? Stop complaining!" 

The lost normative framing -- and the cascading impact this has on effective meme spreading in local social networks -- is the most important casualty of a shift towards vegan consumerism. But there are a number of other detrimental effects:

- Public dialogue is dampened or eliminated because the changes demanded, and controversy generated, suddenly become less compelling.

"Protesters storm into the streets to demand freedom" is an inspirational story and effective meme. "Protesters make polite request for a vegan burrito" is not. 

- To the extent public dialogue is created, it fails to sustain itself because multinational corporations and other institutions manage to convince the public, and even activists, that the problem has been resolved by offering humane alternatives (vegan or otherwise).

Campaigns, just like any good story, require conflict and continuing tension. Indeed conflict and tension are what feed an effective campaign/movement cycle. Efforts to mediate these sorts of conflicts douse the fire of a movement with cold water. Vegan consumerism, by offering faux alternatives and compromise, can have exactly that effect. 

- Even to the extent that alternatives ARE necessary, those that are created under the umbrella of vegan consumerism are susceptible to backsliding.

Whole Foods is perhaps the best example of this. It started out as a vegetarian grocer. Now it's one of the largest animal killers in the world. Alternatives that don't have sufficient structural and institutional separation from current structures and institutions are easily reshaped to serve status quo interests. The most obvious way this is true: the USDA regulates all food, not just meat production, and it has a long history of being controlled by Big Ag interests that have no incentive to implement genuine reforms for animals. The less obvious example is the countless successful vegan businesses that eventually sell themselves to Big Ag interests. (I see Native Foods going down this path, for example -- they recently hired Chipotle's former CFO and are no longer owned by animal advocates. It would not surprise me at all if, within 5 years, they start selling dead animals.)

The upshot: this isn't a consumer movement for vegans. It's a justice movement for animals. And don't let the trappings of vegan consumerism distract you from our central message and goal: not a vegan consumertopia but a world where every animal is safe and happy and free. 

One Scary Day

One Scary Day

I don't think I really understood the horrors of a leg hold trap -- one of the evil devices used by the fur industry -- until the day it happened to Lisa.

Someone, Not Something (International Video)

Activists in eleven cities protested the humane myth at Chipotle locations last month, as part of our campaign: It's not Food. It's Violence. Check out the video highlights from select cities. Also check out our post event write-up in the Bay Area from last month. 

Join us on the weekend of December 14 for our next day of action. We can help you organize and supply materials

Someone, Not Something (SF Bay Area Clip)

DxE activists converged in Chipotle locations across the country with pictures of our animal friends, and a message: Every animal is Someone, not Something. 

Join us for our next day of action on the weekend of December 14

Someone, Not Something (Moscow)

Someone, Not Something (Moscow)

Activists all over the world joined in our last day of action: Someone, Not Something. In Russia and Eastern Europe, anonymous activists took things into their own hands, and shut down dozens of animal killing establishments in the dark of night, and left, in their stead, images of a better world.