Guest Blog: Do Animal Rights Marches Advance or Hinder the Movement.

Do Animal Rights Marches Advance or Hinder the Movement?

 

I am devoted to animal liberation and veganism. It is the mainstream AR movement that white vegans have created that is the embarrassing racist/sexist uncle, for whom I refuse to make excuses.  It is hindering activism for animals—while at the same time also harming oppressed people.

 

While I’ve given up hope that the mainstream AR movement will redeem itself, it is hard to disengage after well over 30 years immersed in it (though I have been disengaging for several years). I watch, in dismay, as thoughtless, counter-productive activism, which does not serve the interests of animals, makes itself as uninviting as possible to black people, other POC, women, disabled people, fat people, gay/trans/non-binary people, immigrants, poor people—and to activists for every other social justice movement.

 

When members of these groups do become vegans, it is usually despite, not because of, the mainstream vegan movement. And many who agree with the ethical arguments for veganism, and are drawn to the ways in which veganism aligns with wider social justice goals, are put off from the message (though they agree with it) by the oppression they experience among white vegans (especially white vegan men).

 

Every social justice movement, especially in the last several years, is making alliances with other social justice movements—every movement, that is, except for the mainstream AR movement. The pro-intersectional AR movement is doing so–but they are not the ones marching down the street, patting themselves on the back as a public display of unearned pride.

 

The obliviousness to the public’s reaction to watching this parade of self-aggrandizement (and worse, the reaction of potential/attainable allies in other social justice movements) is an embarrassment to those who have talked and written endlessly about the house-cleaning that needs to be done by our movement.

 

It is a good thing for the animals, oppressed communities, and veganism, when individuals from groups either intentionally or thoughtlessly made unwelcome by the mainstream, form their own vegan groups, bringing a needed collaboration and alliance between animal rights and broader social justice issues. With any luck, this will become the vanguard, the public face of, veganism. The white mainstream can follow this innovative lead or stay stagnant and moribund. 

 

A parade for and by a group of oppressed humans (accompanied by their allies, marching in solidarity) is not the same as a parade of humans, for animals. Of course, it is the nature of animal rights that the activism is done entirely by one group (humans) for another group (non-human animals). In this latter case, the marchers are not the victims, though AR people sometimes act like they are. Animal activists frequently identify, to a self-deluded degree, with suffering non-human animals, but they are not the suffering animals (as Pattrice Jones has noted). It does not help animals for people to put themselves on display, as the center of attention—that attention belongs to the animals.

 

Animal Rights is every bit as important a cause as any other. There is no hierarchy of worth. But, public perception must be taken into consideration. With all of the preventable suffering going on in every area of the planet (due to capitalism, global warming, racism, lack of empathy, and other human-created symptoms of short sightedness, greed, and depraved indifference to suffering), it comes across as insensitive for a movement that has made it clear that it does not care about any aspect of human suffering to make a spectacle of itself. 

 

What are the stated goals of, and hoped-for gains, from, animal rights marches? Have years of marches, itself, made these goals more attainable? I suggest that they, and the assumptions and practices on which they rest have made them less attainable. What are [some of] these practices and assumptions?

 

·         that in your face activism works

·         lack of concern with how the message is received

·         focus on converting young, able-bodied white people

·         disinterest in anyone but the above

·         anger at the non-white and/or not-young and/or not able-bodied for not getting the message that has not even been thoughtfully conveyed to their communities

·         lack of concern for systemic obstructions that keep people in survival mode, with little energy to consider the plight of animals

·         no concern, let alone help, forthcoming for the above, from the mainstream AR movement

·         that merchandising women’s bodies (and promoting misogynistic standards of beauty for women) goes unchallenged by the mainstream as a major way to sell veganism to the public (when there is data that shows that it is counter-productive: https://moneyish.com/ish/heres-proof-that-sex-doesnt-sell/)

·         not questioning why “the public” to which the above message is aimed (straight, non-feminist men) has become the de facto main focus for a movement that is actually women-driven

·         lack of discussion of the use of women as handmaidens to the “important” activists—the white men in charge

·         little, if any, movement to change the white-male-centric movement, even after documentation of multiple instances of sexual abuse and bullying of women by white males in position of power in AR groups

·         anger at POC and women for starting their own movements, in the face of exclusion of them from the mainstream movement

 

If you want to march, march as vegan allies to other social justice groups. Be out there at BLM rallies, health-care-for-all marches, pro-Palestinian demos, anti-violence to women gatherings. Don’t be there to promote veganism, but be there because you care. Your presence will demonstrate that not all vegans deserve the justifiable stereotype of caring about no other issue except animals. And if you do fit that stereotype, stay home and start reading about other social justice movements, and how intersecting systems of oppression cannot be pried apart.

 

Read Kimberle Crenshaw, who coined the term intersectionality, in order to expose how the intersections of race and gender specifically affect black women (https://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2014/04/kimberl-crenshaw-intersectionality-i-wanted-come-everyday-metaphor-anyone-could ).

 

Read what black vegans have to say about mainstream veganism. Read their more advanced take on animal rights–and amplify their voices. The most original thinking on animal rights and veganism is not coming from the white males who dominate these movements and who have made it inclusive and harmful to so many.

 

It can be challenging to care about other humans, when you see how so many of them treat animals, but by ignoring the suffering of people, you are going to make them far less likely to reconsider their stance on animals. Open your activism to other social justice movements and learn about their issues. And learn about what marginalized vegans experience from a privilege-dominated (dominated by power, not by numbers) movement. Do it because it is the right thing to do and because the animals deserve better than the stale, non-inclusive activism that marks the mainstream movement. 

 

Doing AR work is heart breaking and we need fun and a respite from the human-caused suffering we daily witness.   How about a city-wide picnic (or other fun event) to which the public and other social justice groups are invited, instead of a march that will leave many observers puzzled, angry, or uninterested?

 

This was not meant to chastise individuals holding marches. I assume that they hold marches with the best of intentions, but the animals need more than good intentions and counter-productive spectacles. And so do the people whom we harm with our biases and exclusivity, and with our ignorance of their (frequently life-and-death) issues.

 

Susan Gordon lives in New Jersey, USA and has been vegan for 34 years. She is active in pro-intersectional animal rights, justice for Palestine, feminism, racial justice, anti-ableism, and anti-fat shaming.

Discussion welcome.

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My thoughts on Vegan Pride.

In June 1969 the movement for LGBTQIA+ equality and liberation began. A series of riots took place centring around the Stonewall Inn in New York. These riots were instigated by transgender women of colour and the next year, the first Pride Parade was held.  (You can read more about the history of Pride HERE.)

In recent years Pride has been the victim of commercialisation, police acceptance and the perpetrator of documented trans and bisexual erasure. We are fighting a battle within our own movement to reclaim our heritage and our purpose. We forget that trans women of colour started our journey to liberation because of police aggression and centre our celebrations around cis gay men.

All is not lost however. Various Pride’s around the world now incorporate political blocs. I was part of one that was removed from Pride by the police in the summer of 2017. Those who are fed up of Pride being taken from us, have splintered and created their own after parade parties, much of them political in nature and centring around queer and trans people especially those of BAME origin.

In the world outside of Pride and our little queer families we tend to make for ourselves, the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights continues. Transphobia and homophobia are rife in schools, workplaces and the media. There’s a moral panic about trans children in the UK media which is damaging communities already on the edge of society. We’ve already had one trans woman murdered in 2018. How many more are we going to lose?

Then there’s the intersex babies that no one talks about. The babies who’s sex and gender are decided for them at birth and surgery undertaken to change their ambiguous genitals so they match the sex the parents have decided for them. There are many documented of cases of ongoing psychological damage in intersex adults.

So with all of that to contend with, I was surprised to see an event in London calling itself, “Vegan Pride.” It takes after various events around the world, including one in Toronto which after it’s first year had to rename itself due to uproar from the LGBTQIA+ community.

So why “Vegan Pride?” Why not any other number of names it could have been that doesn’t have any LGBTQIA+ association? London Vegan Parade? March for Veganism? Vegans United Parade? Nope. They HAD to appropriate queer culture and use it for themselves.

Some people have mistaken it as a parade for LGBTQIA+ vegans, but it’s anything but. If you go onto the Facebook event you’ll see a big group of privileged cis white vegans claiming they are oppressed for an ethical choice they have chosen to make, “all lives matter” rhetoric and certain people who have known Nazi affiliations. I even saw a cis friend of mine silence queer people’s objections to them stealing our culture. I was shocked and suddenly felt really unsafe. I’ve yet to confront him about it. Maybe he’ll see this and realise what he’s done. 😦 The event organisers are banning any LGBTQIA+ people who comment objecting, thus silencing our objection.

The whole event is really off putting for vegans and non-vegans alike. It waters down everyone’s message. The message for queer liberation, the ongoing struggles of queer POC and it screams of human centricity. What about the animals?

The worst part? It clashes with one of the biggest and most prolific Pride events in theUK: Brighton Pride.

Please remember that vegans are not oppressed. Oppression needs a power structure to uphold it. Your uncle making bacon jokes or you not being able to get a decent sandwich for lunch is not oppression. It’s just difficulties from a life choice that you have made, a choice which so many other people do not have, putting you in a position of privilege not misfortune. Queer and trans people did not choose and cannot unchoose who they are, like you can with your veganism.

In closing I would like to ask you to boycott this event and tell people why you are doing it, especially if you are an ally. We need you more now than ever.

Animal Rights – You are failing!

This is going to upset people on both sides of the fence I imagine, but you know what? I don’t care! It needs to be said and it needs to be said now. I’m sick and tired of not getting anywhere because all the time, effort and money of people who genuinely care about animals, most of which are vegan, is being spent on campaigns that do not and are not working.

In my previous blog post about abolitionism, I talked about how single issue campaigns were not working. I also spoke about how abolitionist theory was too complex for the majority of us working class folk and we needed a more simple way of understanding it. So here we are my friends, a week in the world Animal Rights, but not the movement I belong to.

Cheltenham race weekend.

One of the top stories on the Animal Aid website is called, “Deathwatch 2012.” It relates to the number of deaths at various horse racing events in 2012. There were a total of ten horse deaths at the Cheltenham festival last year and there will probably be plenty more this year. Animal Aid’s solution is to ask for stricter sanctions and hold a demonstration outside of the racetrack over the course of the weekend.

1)      At no-point is veganism mentioned. Vegans do not support horse racing because it is the use of an animal for entertainment i.e. human pleasure.

2)      By not calling on the absolute abolition of horse racing and indeed all animal use, they insinuate to the non-vegan that it is ok to use animals as long as you stick within certain guidelines. In Cheltenham’s case this means a few quid to make people feel better about an industry that is as full of bloodshed as a slaughterhouse.

3)      Cheltenham still continues and the number of people who attend each year is growing with an estimated 220,000 due to attend this year.

4)      This article says it all really: It’s ok to do whatever we like as long as it is with the regulations. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/horseracing/cheltenham-festival/9920927/Cheltenham-Festival-2013-officials-say-new-measures-should-ensure-no-repeat-of-last-years-tragedies.html

My verdict? FAILURE! Go vegan, spread the vegan message and end animal slavery once and for all.

Horses_Costwolds Jump Racing

 

CCTV for all slaughterhouses.

This first started to be talked about in 2011. All the standard “AR” groups jumped on board and welfare organisations such as the RSPCA joined the cause too. (Don’t even get me started on them.) It was made public knowledge by newspapers such as The Guardian and the campaign even has a Facebook page. Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose, Co-op and Sainsbury’s all forced their suppliers to fit CCTV in the stunning and slaughtering areas.

1)      The CCTV does not cover the entire process of raising an animal on a farm, feeding her, breeding her, shipping her in a lorry and then the entire rest of the abattoir before the stunning and murdering takes place. How then can they be sure that the animals are not being abused, outside of the confines of the normal abuse endured by being a slave, in areas which are not covered by the CCTV cameras?

2)      The supermarkets were only insisting on their own brands. The protest groups did nothing to call them out on other brands that they would continue to sell anyway.

3)      This was done to make consumers feel better about eating animals. If they believe that the animal was not abused, then they are more likely to continue eating meat. This article says this clearly: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/03/abattoirs-supermarkets-cctv-cruelty-welfare Check out this quote from Animal Aid (*sigh*) “Animal Aid said its undercover footage revealed “serious systemic problems” in six abattoirs, including substandard treatment of pigs, sheep and cows before slaughter, and improper stunning. Of all the abattoirs where it had filmed, the campaign group gave only one a relatively clean bill of health.”  So they are clearly saying to the whole of the country that they support the slaughter of animals and consumption of their flesh as long as it is done within a set of regulations. At no point do they mention veganism, which would release all of these animals from the bonds of slavery in the first place.

My verdict? People feel better about eating meat because they believe that the animal carcass they are consuming was treated well before his life was ended. FAILURE!

Worker-sharpens-knife-while-two-pigs-await-stunningpng.img_assist_custom-600x444 PigSanctuary

 

The horse meat scandal.

Well you know what doesn’t contain horse meat don’t you? Fruit and vegetables! 😉 On a more serious note, this is a perfect opportunity to promote veganism in the mainstream media, yet have I seen any of the big organisations out there on the news, in the cities and in the newspapers? Nope! They believe that the concept of veganism is too hard for people to understand. Given the right discussion, nothing is too hard to understand and if they spent half as much time and money as they did on promoting single issue campaigns, half the country would be vegan by now. True facts!

A production line at the Spanghero meat processing company in 2011

 

The EU ban on testing cosmetic ingredients on animals.

This particular news has filled up my Facebook newsfeed for a couple of days now. Everyone from your average non-vegan Joe to The Body Shop (a non-vegan establishment that is owned by animal testing giant L’Oreal) are shouting from the rooftops about what a great achievement this is. Sadly whilst they were busy signing petitions and holding demonstrations outside the European parliament, a new directive called R.E.A.C.H was being approved in the background. This directive means a possible end to all cruelty free cosmetics because it demands that all chemicals and compounds used within them must be tested on animals if they have not done so already. That means companies like LUSH (also a non-vegan company, but with a good vegan selection) are in deep shit and more animals than ever will be vivisected all in the apparent name of our safety as human beings. If any of these campaigns had promoted veganism with the money they spent here, there would have been a seismic shift towards vegan cosmetics thus giving vegan companies a larger market share and a bigger voice. No fuck that! We’ll just take each hurdle as it comes with our stupid little baby steps and end up in more shit than when we started.

rabbits-draize-testing

 

So, as you can see I’ve been getting progressively angrier as I have been writing this post, but I cannot help it. It’s so crystal clear to me and you all need to wake up. Non-vegans, go vegan. It’s really easy and it’s good for animals, the environment and your body. Vegans, stop supporting single issue campaigns and start supporting veganism as the only way to end animal slavery once and for all.

Happy-Animal-5

 

I’m done now.

Animal Rights Ideology

I was raised in an environment where I was encouraged to be inquisitive. If I didn’t question everything and learn from the responses I received, then my parents would be disappointed in me.

As I grew into a teenager, I questioned the world around me more and more. It will come as little surprise that I became vegetarian at the age of 14 after learning where my food came from and what happened to get it onto my plate. Viva was instrumental in this change in lifestyle and pushed me towards vegetarianism, more than my own mother could have. At 17 I became vegan, but living in a vegetarian household with lots of hassle from my parents and no support from anywhere else, I abandoned veganism. Then over the next few years my political opinions started forming and I became an avid lefty. At 20 I went vegan for good and joined the animal rights movement. My inquisitive and questioning nature always remained.

I took part in demonstrations, marches and information stalls. I had many friends in the movement and I was having a great time socially. One of the highlights of these years for me was hooking up with the Liverpool animal rights group and going to an underground anarchist punk gig with vegan food. I really felt like I was part of something and that I belonged. Nothing could ever tear me away from these people.

Meanwhile my political ideals were developing further. I became more and more left wing, flirting with socialism and anarchy. However I began to question those movements along with my new found passion for feminism. It seemed like the approach to achieving their goals was watered down. They were picking away at a problem one small piece at a time. The issue with this is that by the time they solved one problem, if at all, another would spring up in its place leading to a never ending cycle where they couldn’t reach their end goal. People question these types of social activism all the time, so I was not alone in finding others with similar views.

One day I was walking back from a particularly eventful demonstration outside a well-known animal tester in Huntingdon, when it dawned on me. I’d been in the movement for five years. In that time we were no closer to a vegan world or total animal liberation. Were we no different from the other justice movements? Were we just picking the low hanging fruit for easy victories that would soon be eclipsed by a larger and viler threat? YES!

That was my journey to abolitionism.

Most of the people who write about this subject are highly qualified intellectuals and express views in the language that is more familiar to that group. I am not one of those people and neither are a majority of animal rights activists who are failing to understand the message. This is obvious in the defensive and sometimes vocally violent reactions other activists have had towards me since I started airing abolitionist theory.

I hope to put abolitionism in a simpler and brighter light so we can really start to end the property status of animals once and for all.

554471_542347965784962_681197941_n

What is veganism to me?

Vegan lifestyles exclude – as far as possible and practical – all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. Vegans – enjoy foods made from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, grains and mushrooms, including all plant based herbs and spices.”

The Vegan Society 2012.

All forms of discrimination are connected. Racism, sexism, homophobia, speciesism, ageism etc. all incite violence and hatred. By rejecting all forms of discrimination, you become non-violent. Veganism = non-violence.

There are three main benefits to becoming vegan:

1)      You are rejecting violence towards other sentient beings.

2)      Through wholefood, plant based eating your health will improve.

3)      You will have a lower environmental impact.

I’m not going to go into detail about these aspects as that is not my intention with this piece. (I would recommend reading up on these at a later date. They will help you construct detailed and positive arguments for veganism.

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Welfarism: The Basics

Around two hundred years ago, a movement started to increase the welfare of animals used by humans. This initially stemmed from the use of animals in vivisection. (Animal experiments.)

Welfarism focuses on a single issue at a time, for example a reduction or termination of the use of primates in medical research. This is said to be, “baby steps” towards creating a world where animals are not abused by humans.

The main ideology is that it is ok to use animals as long as you are nice about it. For example, it is ok to raise and then slaughter a cow if she has had a nice life.

Many vegans and animal rights activists subscribe to this way of thinking because it has been the main way of campaigning since humans started to become concerned about other animals. Big charity organisations also use single issue campaigns and ask for donations in the process.

The Problems with Welfarism

Welfarism poses a number of ethical problems.

  • It assumes that it is ok to do anything you like to a sentient being as long as it done nicely. For example, it is ok to keep a pig in a big outdoor pen with high quality food, and then slaughter her for food. (As if slaughter is ever nice or pleasant.) This enforces the property status of animals and thus inhibits a transition to a vegan world and total animal liberation.
  • Welfarism has been around for about 200 years. That that time we haven’t come any closer to a non-violent world. In fact, animal use in all areas has increased, rather than decreased as the welfarist paradigm suggests that it should.
  • Single issue campaigns enforce speciesism for two reasons:

1)      They place the importance of one animal over another. A protest at a fur far places the importance of minks over the importance of the dairy cow, by association and subconsciously in the human mind. If you ask a lot of animal rights activists, they are often focused on fur and vivisection because they see them as worse forms of suffering, when in fact all suffering is wrong.

2)      They enforce the property paradigm. Cheale meats are a pig slaughterhouse that recently underwent an investigation that found that the workers were abusing the pigs before slaughter. Animal rights activists turn up and start protesting, shouting from the rooftops about how barbaric and disgusting the whole thing is. A non-vegan sees or reads about this protest and thinks, “how horrible!? I don’t take part in this sort of thing so therefore I am not as bad as them.” They then carry on as normal. Once again you are left with the thought that it is ok to use animals as long as you treat them nicely. This is speciesism.

  • Big charities such as PETA make money from welfarism and single issue campaigns. They call for more humane methods of slaughter (oxymoron) such as controlled atmosphere killing (CAK) saying that it will greatly increase the welfare of chickens for example. They get their un-knowing volunteers onto the streets to educate people about this campaign and then ask for donations. In the meantime, they are in discussions with the likes of KFC telling them how much more of a profit they will make because people will feel better about eating their product and their efficiency will be up. Once KFC agrees to this, PETA hail, “victory” and people feel like they have made a difference for animals. In reality all they done is make animal agribusiness more profitable and moved further away from animal liberation,, whilst filling the charity coffers.

Abolitionism: The Basics

The theory of abolition has been around since the time of endorsed human slavery. The people who campaigned for an end to slavery were called abolitionists. They did not want people to be slaves with certain freedoms; they wanted people to be free, full stop! It wasn’t until about 20 years ago that this was applied to animal rights. Many books and essays were written, but word failed to spread quickly in a welfare orientated animal rights movement until the prolific spread of the internet. Now you can see and hear many debates and discussions about abolitionism and many more vegan outreach events taking place across the country.

Abolitionists believe that animals are not our property and we should not enforce this paradigm with our activism. Veganism is the moral baseline for all activism because it is the absolute minimum required to bring about animal liberation. It is also believed that promoting vegetarianism as a step towards veganism stalls the transition, because people begin to believe veganism is hard and that vegetarianism is enough to end animal exploitation.

Rescuing animals and supporting sanctuaries is also an essential belief. They cannot help that they are in the situation they are in and need all the help we can offer.

companion-animal

The Problems with Abolitionism

The main problem with the abolitionist movement is that it alienates the people it wants to target as I outlined in my introduction. I believe Gary Francione and other abolitionists put forward a very good argument, however sometimes it can be difficult to read and understand.

The second problem is that it basically says that traditional activism supports non-human slavery rather than helping to end it. Whilst I believe this is the truth and have said so many times, it does cause heated debate. I am a strong minded and capable person in all debating situations, whether it is on the internet or in person. Not everyone is, however and this is how welfarism makes its easy wins and keeps people enshrined in its ideology.

Welfarism

Summary

On the whole I feel that abolitionism is the only way we can overcome the property status of animals and gain a vegan world. You cannot make the two approaches work together because they are polar opposites. Both are fighting for what they perceive as social justice, but that perception is starkly different.

For more abolitionist FAQs please visit: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/faqs