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Coalition Reader


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This collection of articles has been compiled by Animal Rights Advocates Inc. (ARA) to provide a guide for activists interested in the links between animal rights and other social justice movements and challenging their own oppressive behaviour.

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Coalition Reader

  1. 1. Coalition Building Creating Alliances Against Oppression an activist reader
  2. 2. Contents Present Realities and the Moral Status of Animals – Dan Cudahy 1 Linking Feminist, Queer, and Animal Liberation Movements - Pattrice Jones 7 Their Bodies, Our Selves: Moving Beyond Sexism and Speciesism - Pattrice Jones 19 Reproductive Autonomy: Crossing the Species Border - Helen Matthews 26 Is Heterosexism Different? - Gary L. Francione 32 Anti-Racist Strategies for White Student Radicals - Chris Dixon 35 Anti-Oppression Organizing Tools - Los Angeles Direct Action Network 41 Toward an Interspecies Alliance Politics - Steven Best 44 Further Information 59 Guiding Principles of Animal Rights 60 About this reader This collection of articles has been compiled by Animal Rights Advocates Inc. (ARA) to provide a guide for activists interested in the links between animal rights and other social justice movements and challenging their own oppressive behaviour. Feel free to photocopy and distribute as long as you maintain the original attributions.
  3. 3. Present Realities and the Moral Status of Animals – Dan Cudahy Blind Tradition: The Historical Moral Status of So-Called “Brutes” From pre-history until the 20th century, it was believed by almost everyone that humans needed to use and eat animals to thrive and even to survive. This was especially true prior to the 19th century; and philosophers in the 17th and 18th centuries, such as Rene Descartes, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant had grossly distorted visions of the nature of nonhuman animals which fit well with the idea that God “put” animals in our world for our use, and that we had no moral obligations to animals whatsoever. Descartes viewed animals as insentient automata or “God’s machines”. For Descartes, one of the founders of modern vivisection, the intense squeals of dogs being beaten or tortured were merely the sounds of a broken machine, not cries of extreme pain. John Locke viewed animals as natural resources, like land and trees, which we may acquire as property and have “natural rights” to that property. For Immanuel Kant, animals were literally “things”: “...Beings whose existence depends…on nature have, nevertheless, if they are not rational beings, only a relative value as means and are therefore called things.” (Kant, 1785) The old, traditional distorted view of animals is still in our language today as most of us refer to an animal as “it” even when we know the sex of an individual animal and therefore his or her proper gender. Given the prevailing view and circumstances of the 17th and 18th -1-
  4. 4. centuries that animals needed to be raised, used, and killed for basic human needs, is not surprising that thoughtful philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Kant sought to avoid thinking and writing seriously about the similarities between humans and nonhumans and how those similarities might have serious moral implications. Instead, to protect the perceived need of animal use, they emphasized a morally irrelevant difference between nonhumans and most, but certainly not all humans: rationality. Another, more intellectually honest approach would have been for these thinkers to admit that there were morally relevant similarities, and that these imposed a direct duty to animals to reduce suffering as much as possible, but that ultimately, moral consideration would have to yield to the perceived survival needs of humans. But we have to remember that these were times when women did not count as full persons, and humans owned other humans as chattel property and were often as cruel to human slaves as to nonhuman slaves. We can see how even careful thinkers as Locke and Kant may have been lost in the fog of their culture’s deeply-held prejudices. “Food” Animals and Human Brutes The torture endured by farmed animals from birth to slaughter in our industrialized and mechanized processing systems is unimaginably horrible, and there is no significant difference between free-range, cage-free, and “certified humane” versus the traditional industrial methods, despite the misleading claims of large welfare organizations (incorrectly referred to by the media and themselves as “animal rights” organizations). If you are born a chicken in the most “humane” environment, the best thing that might happen to you is that you are gassed or tossed alive into a wood-chipper as a baby chick, so you don’t have to experience a life of hell as a cage-free or “certified humane” egg chicken (a “layer”) or flesh chicken (a “broiler”). Make no mistake; both the old methods and the new, so-called “humane” methods rely on intensive confinement with filthy conditions, -2-
  5. 5. diseases, no individual attention, and no veterinary care to speak of. One thing is obvious: It is literally impossible to raise and slaughter hundreds of thousands, millions, or billions of nonhumans without industrial methods. What is less obvious, but nevertheless true, is that “humane” labels are little more than a marketing ploy to ease the growing public sensitivity to the (unavoidable) reality of animal agriculture’s cruelty. Further, transportation and slaughter itself is extremely cruel, with slaughterhouse workers intentionally torturing animals, especially chickens, and animals often inadvertently being boiled or ripped apart alive (such cruelty is common knowledge among welfare advocates and has been documented in the Washington Post [‘They die piece by piece’] and in various films and documentaries of slaughterhouse conditions). When we do these things to a dog or cat, we are charged with a felony; when we do these while marketing unnecessary food preferences, we get paid a wage for it. Even if it were possible (and it’s not possible) to heavily police transportation and slaughter so that the cruelty was significantly reduced, it is still wrong to treat sentient beings with a crucial interest in their life and its quality as a means to an end. We need not wonder who the brutes are; a mirror will tell us. Animal agriculture, on its modern scale of production, is an environmental disaster, with “cattle” and hog waste polluting groundwater, rivers, and streams and killing millions of fish throughout the country; and flatulence contributing significant quantities of carbon and other pollutants into the air. “Food” animals, particularly “cattle” and pigs, are reverse protein factories, consuming up to 10 times more protein in their short lives than they provide after they are slaughtered for food. A vast majority of the land used for growing plant food is to feed animals who will use up to 90% of that protein in their daily living, returning relatively very little after slaughter. The only way to achieve more pollution and greater inefficiency in food production is to breed and raise more nonhumans for food. -3-
  6. 6. The Solution to Animal Agriculture Now, early in the 21st century, more and more mainstream dieticians and health professionals are telling us that balanced vegan diets are optimal for our health. (For information about vegan nutrition, see the link on this blog.) There are now vegan alternatives to most animal- based ingredients and expanded vegan options, making gourmet vegan entrees and desserts as delightful to the palate as non-vegan versions ever were, and much healthier too (see the vegan menus links in this blog). Dieticians are also telling us that traditional animal- based diets, especially in the quantities we consume them, are literally killing us with heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, strokes, and cancer. For clothing, there are now synthetic materials, such as nylon, synthetic fleece, faux “leather”, faux “suede”, and faux “fur”, which easily replace, and are better than, the animal alternatives. The solution is to go vegan. Animal Experimentation: Archaic, Brutal, and Dangerous The things we do to sentient nonhumans in labs, 90% of the time for trivial reasons and never for crucial reasons, are beyond salvage. Again, if we are unspeakably cruel to a dog or cat in the street, we get hit with felony cruelty charges (as we should); if we do the same thing in a lab under a thin veneer of respectability backed up by the law (laws heavily influenced politically by the vivisection industry), however, we get paid a wage. Fortunately, there is a growing body of well-researched literature showing that modern alternatives to animal testing and training on animals, such as computer modeling and simulation, human tissue research, clinical observation and research, epidemiology, pathology, genetics, prevention, autopsies, and post-marketing drug surveillance are making animal testing archaic, obsolete, and even dangerous to humans. Indeed, it is blind tradition, powerful business interests, and wealthy lobbying which supports a vast majority of current -4-
  7. 7. animal research. Jean Swingle Greek, DMV, and C.Ray Greek, MD, have contributed volumes of valuable research, ranging from non-technical research appealing to the lay reader to highly technical research appealing to scientists and health professionals on the lack of need for animal use in modern medicine. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine is also playing a valuable role in educating scientists and health professionals about responsible alternatives to animal testing. Moral Reflection and Conclusions: The Personhood of Animals We are clearly no longer in need of any animal use which would preserve the meaning of the word “need”, and in fact, if there is a need, it is a need to avoid animal use for our health and environmental sustainability. This has profound implications for our behavior toward nonhumans. Nonhumans have always had morally crucial and important interests in not being intentionally harmed or killed. The psychological and emotional interests of sentient nonhumans are too similar to and overlapping with our own to continue to ignore those interests, especially at a time when ignoring those interests is so unnecessary and destructive in so many ways. Rationality is a nice tool to use for good or evil, but it has no moral relevance when it comes to crucial basic interests such as the avoidance of serious physical or psychological harm or death. It is arbitrary to look to rationality as defining moral or legal personhood. Also, to do so is to necessarily exclude many humans from personhood, such as infants, the senile, and the mentally disabled or mentally ill. Sentience, the ability to have experiences (including pleasure and pain), is certainly sufficient for moral and legal personhood, and any being who has sentience to the high degree that cows, pigs, chickens, geese, deer, goats, sheep, elk, marine mammals, and many fish do, clearly has crucial interests and profound corresponding moral claims on our behavior. There may well be other criteria which would also suffice for personhood, such as the likely -5-
  8. 8. future acquisition of sentience. Such a criterion as a high probability for future sentience would be appropriate for considering the moral and legal personhood of comatose normal human adults and fetuses. Criteria other than sentience for moral and legal personhood, however, are beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that sentience itself is sufficient. It has been clear empirically, even from the 18th century, that there is no non-arbitrary way to distinguish morally relevant characteristics of humans from nonhumans. In other words, there is no morally relevant characteristic which all humans and only humans have which would give humans special moral consideration. As such, attempts to distinguish between humans and nonhumans on species membership alone, without some morally relevant characteristic that all and only humans have, is plainly arbitrary, and therefore, is plainly speciesist. Such speciesism is every bit as morally unacceptable as racism and sexism. There may have been a weak excuse for such speciesism back in Locke and Kant’s day, considering the perceived need to use animals and the cultural racism and sexism of the time (all of which itself was wrong, even then), but with the knowledge and alternatives available today, there are no more excuses, not even half- baked excuses. A speciesist is a racist is a sexist: it is all the same moral wrong. If we do not consider ourselves racist or sexist, and if we are to avoid hypocrisy and maintain consistency, we must eliminate our speciesism by going vegan. This article can be accessed in its original form at: and-moral-status-of.html -6-
  9. 9. Of Brides and Bridges: Linking Feminist, Queer, and Animal Liberation Movements - Pattrice Jones The raiders captured more than a hundred females. Chased and forced to give up all but 30 of their captives, they chose carefully, keeping the purpose of breeding in mind and retained those with the lightest skin and strongest muscles. The raiders were agents of the Lord’s Resistance Army of Uganda. The captives, not cows but school girls, were distributed as “wives” to senior officers, who took care to rape them whenever they were fertile. Any girl who refused sex to her assigned “husband” was branded twice and whipped 200 times. This particular raid happened in 1996 but similar forays continue to this day. Both boys and girls are impressed into service as child soldiers. Girls judged fit for reproduction become sex slaves to adult soldiers, forced to bear and raise children and to do heavy labor whenever not servicing their designated husbands. The taking of both women and animals as spoils of war is a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of pastoralism and continues to this day. The same tactics have been and continue to be used to “domesticate” (i.e., break the will and control the reproduction of ) both women and animals. It’s not an accident that “bride” and “bridle” sound the same, that “grooms” take the reins of both horses and wives, or that we speak of animal “husbandry.” -7-
  10. 10. Animal liberationists know a lot about the exploitation of nonhuman animals but often are woefully uninformed about the injuries and injustices suffered by human females. Similarly, while any animal liberationist can list a litany of abuses perpetrated by humans upon nonhumans, many shy away from explicitly listing the crimes committed by human males. Like the exploitation of dairy cows to satisfy human desire for milk and of hens to satisfy human desire for eggs, the exploitation of women and children to satisfy male desire for sexual pleasure is big business. According to the United Nations, one million children are enslaved by the sex tourism industry in Asia alone. Some villages specialize in procurement of children for pedophile tourists. Destinations in South America and the Caribbean also are known to be havens for men who want to rape or buy local girls and boys. Meanwhile, teenaged and adult women are held in bondage in brothels all over the world. Rather than declining, the trafficking of girls and women for the sex industry has been increasing in recent years. A quick search of recent news stories turns up reports of Lithuanian women sold into sex slavery in Britain; thousands of women from South Asia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe trafficked into sex slavery in Australia every year; smuggling of sex slaves into the U.S. via Canada; and the closure of a brothel in Vermont in which the purported prostitutes were, in fact, debt servitors from Korea. In most instances, these kinds of slavery are technically illegal but persist because they bring pleasure to the powerful. Like cock fighting and trafficking in endangered species, the trade in sex slaves continues to thrive despite alleged efforts of male-dominated governments to end it. Similarly, legal discrimination against women continues because men have chosen to retain rather than divest themselves of the illegitimate authority they hold over women. The male-controlled governments of 41 countries have refused to sign the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; six countries (including the U.S.) have -8-
  11. 11. signed but not ratified the treaty; another 43 have ratified the treaty but stipulated that they will not abide by certain elements of it. In many places, women lack the legal standing of adult males and are therefore virtually the property of their fathers, brothers or husbands. In addition to being denied an education or the right to vote, adult women in many countries are legally minors who may not travel, go to a doctor, take a job, or make other life decisions without the consent of whichever male relative is in charge of them. Forced marriages are still legal and common in many countries. Sexual and physical assaults within marriages are common within all countries. One in five women in the U.S. is assaulted by an intimate partner and, in several states, a man may not be prosecuted for raping his wife, since he has the legal right to enter her body whenever he likes. Two-thirds of married women in Chile, Mexico, and Korea have been battered by their husbands. More than half of all murders of females in Bangladesh, Brazil, Kenya, and Thailand are committed by current or former intimate partners. Abuse of females begins in childhood. One out of three women in the U.S., Barbados, and New Zealand was sexually abused as a child or adolescent. The everyday nature of sexual abuse of girl children by adult males gives a clue as to the political purpose of what seem like purely private traumas. How do you “break” an animal? Rob her of the feeling that she controls her own body. How do you ensure that you can control an animal’s reproduction? Assert your right to do whatever you want to her genitals as early as possible. The most extreme form of the ongoing domestication and reproductive control of human females is female genital mutilation, in which various strategies (cutting off the clitoris, sewing shut the vagina, etc.) are utilized to ensure that females cannot enjoy sex and therefore will be unlikely to stray from their assigned sexual partners. The UN Development Program estimates that about 100 million girls suffer genital mutilation every year. In Sierra Leone this year, the -9-
  12. 12. Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Women’s Affairs threatened to “sew up the mouths” of anyone speaking against the mutilation of the bodies of adolescent girls. At the same time, all over the world, cows, sows, and hens are exploited specifically for the fruits of their reproductive organs. It’s time for feminists and animal liberationists to come together to struggle for freedom and self-determination for all female animals. Common Cause How can animal liberationists make common cause with feminists? All the usual rules about building and maintaining coalitions apply: 1. Do your homework Before approaching potential allies, make sure you know who they are. Make it your business to learn about the history and current status of their social movement, how they analyze and respond to the problems they seek to solve, and what words they use to talk about the world as they see it. 2. Make friends Coalitions are relationships. Building and maintaining a coalition is as easy—and as difficult—as building and maintaining a friendship. All of the same skills are needed: communication (which means listening as well as talking), empathy, reliability, genuineness, and a willingness to share both burdens and blessings. 3. Start small The easiest way to initiate a coalition is to show up to support the efforts of your potential partner on some issue about which you agree (whether or not this issue is directly relevant to animals or veganism). That way, you’re not a stranger when you initiate a coalition. So, for example, members of a local vegetarian society might make contact - 10 -
  13. 13. with a local anti-racist organization by showing up for a rally against police brutality or helping to stuff envelopes or put up posters for Black History Month activities. One great way for animal advocacy organizations to make friends quickly and easily is to supply vegan food for community activities. Food Not Bombs chapters in several cities routinely provide food at progressive events. Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM) staff members have brought stacks of sandwiches to peace rallies in Washington, DC; hungry marchers are always happy to take a brochure along with a free sandwich. 4. Work together The next step is proposing shared work on some issue about which you and your potential coalition partner already agree. While you are working together on something that is not a source of conflict, trust grows and cross-fertilization of ideas naturally occurs. Then (and only then) you can begin to talk about the things about which you disagree. In so doing, you must be as open to what they want you to learn as you hope they will be about what you want them to learn. Returning to the example of the local vegetarian society and the anti-racist organization, after a time of getting to know one another, members of the vegetarian group might propose a joint project to get soy milk into the school lunch program, since the majority of children of color are lactose intolerant and may have their afternoon learning inhibited by discomfort associated with milk consumption. Such a project would be worthwhile in itself. Furthermore, as they progress, the activists from the two groups would get to know and trust one another. Then, the members of the anti-racist group will be more open to information about the animal abuse and health hazards associated with meat—but only if the vegetarian group is willing to be just as open to what their coalition partners want them to hear about race. 5. Be the bridge Everybody talks about building bridges between movements but I - 11 -
  14. 14. think we have to go further than that. Those of us who want to span the gap between the animal liberation movement and other peace, justice, and liberation movements must be willing to be the bridges we envision. Bridges must extend themselves and be able to bear weight. We, too, must be willing to stretch and to tolerate some discomfort. Forging Feminist Friendships Let’s apply those rules to the project of forging working relationships between feminists and animal liberationists. We can do some homework by applying the insights of feminism to the project of animal liberation. Feminists understand and distinguish between sex (male, female) and gender (masculine, feminine) and understand gender to be what sociologists call a social construct. Social constructs are cultural ideas that seem natural because almost everybody agrees with them. Our social constructs about gender are so powerful that parents of virtually identical one-day old infants perceive the males as bigger, stronger, and more hardy than their female peers. Those perceptions can influence the ways the infants are treated, thereby becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. An infant who is perceived as a big strong boy is likely to get more stimulation, exercise, and freedom than an infant who is perceived as a small weak girl. If we look more closely at the social construction of gender, we can see that animals figure prominently. We project our ideas about gender onto animals and then allow our gendered perceptions of them to convince us that our ideas about gender are reflections of the natural world. Often, we treat the animals within our control in ways that will make it more likely that their behavior will conform to our gender stereotypes. Caged hens and crated sows have little option but to become embodiments of passive “femininity.” Meanwhile, tethered fighting roosters and tortured rodeo bulls are goaded by - 12 -
  15. 15. frustration into acting out our ideas about aggressive “masculinity.” We can talk about such ideas with feminists, making friends along the way. We can offer to bring vegan food to feminist events in our communities in order to continue the conversations. We then can move on to proposing joint projects. Milk is my number one choice for working together with feminists, because it’s a product that begins with the exploitation of the mammary glands of the dairy cow and ends up increasing the incidence of breast cancer in women. Battery cages and gestation crates are two other examples of gendered exploitation of animals in agriculture. Bull riding and cock fighting are examples of gendered exploitation of animals for entertainment. Some organizations have made some headway on other issues of joint concern. Aware of the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse, Feminists for Animal Rights has worked on the problem of women who stay in dangerous households because domestic violence shelters don’t accept animals and they are afraid of what their batterer will do to their animal companions if they leave. The Women’s Health and Ethics Coalition has worked on the problem of Premarin, which is a dangerous drug made from the urine of pregnant mares and prescribed to women as if menopause were a disease rather than a natural phase in the female life cycle. The FAR and WHEC campaigns are good examples of feminists within the animal liberation community taking the initiative to start campaigns and then invite feminists from outside the movement to join them. I’d like to see a coalition of feminist individuals and organizations within the movement agree to focus on one of the gendered aspects of animal exploitation for a year, coming at the problem from many different directions and actively promoting feminist analysis of and activism against animal exploitation along the way. I’ve been talking to feminists about animal liberation for long enough to share a few tips. Talking about the social construction of gender by - 13 -
  16. 16. means of animals really does seem to spark good conversations. If that sounds too abstract for you, then you’ll be glad to know that I’ve also had some success talking about milk in very blunt terms. I share my own empathy with the cows and my own consequent revulsion with milk, expressing my own feelings and trusting that my feminist friends will draw their own conclusions about the right thing to do in the context of such senseless suffering. Now I’m going to share my most valuable tool. It’s a sentence. Here it is: “Eating meat is something you do to someone else’s body without their consent.” Milk or eggs can be substituted for meat but, no matter what, this sentence must be said in a calm, level, matter-of-fact tone so that it can slide past the defensiveness long enough to sink in. Feminists are very committed to bodily self determination and, unless this sentence is said, can perceive demands for diet change as efforts to control what they do with their own bodies. It’s imperative that they hear and understand that consuming animal products is doing something to someone else’s body without the consent of that individual. Any good feminist will recoil at the idea. She may not change her diet immediately but, if this sentence sinks in, she will never be as comfortable consuming animal products again. While we’re on the subject of asking people to change, we should remember that feminists aren’t the only ones who will have to change for this alliance to work. Women in the movement are going to have to start thinking of themselves as the animals that we all are and embrace their own animal rights. Men in the movement are going to have to realize that it’s just as wrong to mock, insult, denigrate, or assault women as it is to mock, insult, denigrate, or assault other animals. The good news is that feminists are already used to thinking about connections. For the past several years, feminist scholars and activists have challenged themselves to think about and act upon the links between sexism and racism, sexism and class exploitation, sexism - 14 -
  17. 17. and environmental degradation, etc. I think feminists are ready to start thinking about the link between speciesism and sexism if animal liberationists are ready to talk about it and prepared to structure our organizations and our actions in a feminist manner. Queering Animal Liberation Many feminists see homophobia as what Suzanne Pharr called a “weapon of sexism.” Gender relations are policed by means of discrimination and violence against gay men, lesbians, and others considered queer. Girls who don’t pay enough deferential attention to boys risk being labeled lesbian while boys who refuse to assume their assigned dominant role may find themselves on the wrong side of a gay bashing. Seeing the springtime behavior of the ducks at the sanctuary, we didn’t need to read Bruce Bagemihl’s book Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity to know that nonhuman animals are not exclusively heterosexual. As that very comprehensive book demonstrates, sexuality among nonhuman animals encompasses every permutation we’ve ever attempted and many that are well beyond our rather limited physical capabilities. Nonhuman animals do lots of different things with themselves and each other for sheer sensual pleasure. Characterizations of homosexuality as “unnatural” hurts animals as well as gay and lesbian people. By denying that animals have sex for pleasure or form pair bonds that aren’t about reproduction, it’s easier to claim that animals are automatons who don’t have feelings and are not sentient individuals. That being the case, animal liberation and gay liberation are necessarily bound up with one another. Again, an alliance is long overdue. The usual rules apply, and success is more likely if certain things are kept in mind. - 15 -
  18. 18. The most important thing to remember is that queer activists have been both central and marginalized in almost every social movement—including the animal liberation movement. There are gay and lesbian movement leaders who do not come out because they know they would lose credibility in some circles by doing so. Some of the best work in this movement has been and is being done by people who you may never know are not heterosexual. While those people may be comfortable with their choices, the fact remains that most queer activists these days are no longer willing to put up with being pushed to the side or asked to subdivide themselves. This is particularly true of lesbian feminists, many of whom remember the bad old days when some straight feminists did everything they could to distance themselves from the lesbians who were staffing the rape crises centers, starting the domestic violence shelters, and otherwise doing the hard work of protecting straight women from straight men. These lesbian feminists, who had selflessly devoted themselves to helping other women to cope with and heal from the damage done to them by the men in their lives, were called selfish whenever they insisted that lesbian issues be included in the feminist agenda. Lesbians and gay men of color have faced similar charges within the anti-racist organizations they have helped to build. Most people don’t like being called selfish. Because of this history of marginalization, which is ongoing, queer activists may be particularly likely to recoil if asked to give up their own rights in the service of a supposedly larger goal. Those of us who know for sure that all forms of oppression are related are particularly unlikely to tolerate nonsensical demands that we accept being oppressed in order to end oppression. Dos & Don’ts In conclusion, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when being the bridge between the animal liberation and feminist or queer - 16 -
  19. 19. liberation movements: • Do make yourself useful so that you will eventually be regarded as a trusted ally. • Don’t try to introduce your agenda to an organization until you have won that trust. • Do refer to your own veganism as an expression of your commitment to peace and freedom for everyone. • Don’t expect people to immediately see the connection and change their diets overnight. • Do refer to your veganism as a reflection of your own feminism, if that is true. • Don’t pretend to be a feminist if you’re not. • Do become a feminist if you’re not. • Don’t be simplistic when making analogies. • Do talk about reproductive freedom for everyone. • Don’t use loaded words like “rape” unless you really know what you’re doing. • Do attend to the sex, race, class, ability and sexual orientation of speakers at events and other people in positions of power. • Don’t tokenize people by putting them forward inappropriately or asking them to represent their race, class, sex, orientation, or ability. • Do remember how much work you needed to do to unlearn the things you were taught about animals. • Don’t forget that you will need to do at least as much work to unlearn the things you’ve been taught about sex, gender, race, and sexual orientation. • Do understand that working in coalition means you will not agree - 17 -
  20. 20. on every point. • Don’t even try to do this if you are currently so angry at human hubris that you cannot work harmoniously with people who have not (yet) embraced animal liberation as a goal. • Do remember that change is a process and that other animal advocates are with you in spirit even when you feel very alone. • Do what you can and trust that others are doing the same. Pattrice Jones is coordinator of the Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center. To learn more, see This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 18 -
  21. 21. Their Bodies, Our Selves: Moving Beyond Sexism and Speciesism - Pattrice Jones In the lounge of a fancy hotel, participants in an animal rights conference gather to socialize and blow off steam after a hard day of education and debate. A dog called “Babe” by her human companions sits in the midst of it all. Like most of us, Babe doesn’t much like being touched by strangers. Like many of us, Babe has had some life experiences that led her to be shy and a little bit nervous among people she doesn’t know. Babe becomes visibly uncomfortable as person after person touches, grabs, and strokes her without first getting her permission or even considering her wishes. Babe’s body language expresses her preferences quite clearly. She pulls away, ducks her head, and moves closer to her human companion for protection. Again and again, her human companion says things like, “Babe is nervous around strangers” and “Babe doesn’t seem to want to be touched right now.” Certain that they are somehow special or simply so wrapped up in their own desires that they don’t notice hers, the people continue to touch Babe anyhow. Eventually, Babe and her human companion have to leave the area so that she can have some peace. Fast forward a year. Same conference, different hotel, same need for solace after a long day of confronting unspeakable sorrow. Drunk to the point where you say what you really mean because all of your inhibitions are gone, an activist who has been chastised for grabbing - 19 -
  22. 22. women’s asses explains that he has the right to touch any woman he wants to touch. He laughs at the idea that he ought to obtain permission first, seeming to find that idea as absurd as many people find the idea of animal self-determination to be. Rebuffed by one group of women, he staggers over to Babe’s human companion and asks her if she has any lesbian proclivities. Why are people eating more meat than ever, despite decades of vegetarian activism? Why do so many men beat their girlfriends and wives, despite decades of feminist activism? Why do so many parents feel insulted when their children announce themselves to be vegetarian or homosexual? Why do so many women choose to become wives, when doing so often means giving up the legal right to say whether and when your body will be penetrated? Why does anyone choose to eat meat, anyway? Believe it or not, these questions all have the same answer. Unfortunately, we just don’t have a word for it. Big Brother Versus Mother Earth While we don’t have a word for the problem, we know it when we see it. It’s the fault line running underneath all of the social and environmental disruptions that plague us and the planet. You can read all about it in Genesis or the platform of the Republican Party: Men have the right and the duty to subdue the earth, the animals, their own families, and the men of other faiths. We tend to think about speciesism and sexism as separate albeit overlapping problems. In truth, they are just different aspects of our nameless violation. Women and animals, along with land and children, have historically been seen as the property of male heads of households, who then compete with other men for more power and property. Patriarchy (male control of political and family life) and pastoralism (animal herding as a way of life) appeared on the - 20 -
  23. 23. historical stage together and cannot be separated, because they are justified and perpetuated by the same ideologies and practices. Those ways of thinking and acting are evident everywhere from the detention camps at Guantanamo Bay to the dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay. At the heart of the problem is alienation, separation, and dissociation. Estrangement is both cause and consequence of the problem. We are cut off from the earth, other animals, each other, and ourselves. Those disconnections allow us to do terrible things to the earth, other animals, each other, and ourselves. Doing those terrible things increases the estrangement. And the cycle of violation and separation continues. In the process, we are cut off from our bodies in two ways. First, many of us embrace philosophies or religious faiths that urge us to view our bodies, our very selves, as profane objects to be transcended. We come to see our bodies as something other than ourselves. From that division flows the subdivision of the body into a collection of body parts. Experiencing ourselves in such a fragmented manner, is it any wonder that men reduce women to their body parts in pornography or that the everyday butchery of animals into their body parts seems so natural? Whose Bodies? Whose Selves? Once bodies are seen as objects to be controlled, the question becomes: Who will control them? In many U.S. states and a number of other countries, husbands may not be prosecuted for raping their wives. The “right” of a man to have sex with his wife whether or not she consents is conceivable only in the context of a worldview in which bodies are things rather than selves. Once the daughter has been sold or “given away” by her father, the right to control her body passes to the husband. - 21 -
  24. 24. “Social construction” is the term sociologists use to describe the process by which people collectively create categories, like gender or species, and then come to perceive those categories as natural. The idea that animals are objects and thus need not be consulted before breaking their bodies is a social construct that dates back to the days when all daughters were the property of their fathers. Because our ideas about daughters and dairy cows evolved when both were property of husbands, the characteristics we ascribe to female humans and domesticated animals refer to and reinforce one another. Understanding this, we can begin to understand why so many fathers are outraged when their daughters choose vegetarianism. Men who have never before paid any attention to food shopping, meal planning, or cooking become instant experts on nutrition when their daughters give up meat. While they may pretend that their concern is purely nutritional, the escalating emotion of the mealtime conversations tells anyone willing to listen that these angry fathers are motivated by something other than dispassionate concern for their daughters’ health. This is evidence that we all understand, at some deep unspoken level, the link between subjugation of animals and subjugation of women. The girl who gives up meat is also, to some degree, giving up her deference to patriarchal authority. And at some level, both she and her father know it. The mother is generally ambivalent, siding with the daughter as a fellow female but with the father as a fellow parent. The arguments can go on and on for years, ruining every holiday meal, because the real roots of the conflict are never brought to light. This is the sexism-speciesism problem in microcosm: neither can be truly understood or resolved until their tangled roots are unearthed. In the U.S., at least one out of every hundred girls is raped by her biological father and the percentages are much higher for step- fathers and mothers’ boyfriends. One out of every four girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, with the perpetrators most often being family members or friends of the family. Meat and the male - 22 -
  25. 25. organ are very closely related in the popular mindset. Some even call masturbation “beating the meat.” Furthermore, meat is the result of a process of violation. At every stage of the process, from impregnation to slaughter, animals’ bodies are manipulated without their consent. So, when a daughter refuses the meat, she’s saying “no” to more than a menu. Ecofeminism in Action A young woman finds a chicken by the side of the road and delivers the bird to our sanctuary. She looks like the girl next door but has a subversive secret. Squinting into the morning sun, she recalls the exact moment she became a vegan: “Seventh grade. At the dinner table. My father was waving a forkful of steak and saying ‘moo.’ And that was it.” I’m at the University of New Orleans, talking to a women’s studies class about the links between feminism and animal liberation. A number of faculty members are sitting in and apparently enjoying my theories about the social construction of gender and species. Suddenly setting aside theoretical speculations, I start to talk about milk. “Can you imagine,” I ask, “having a baby and then having someone take it away from you...just so that someone else can have your milk?” Several women unconsciously mimic my own instinctive reaction to that thought, reflexively crossing their arms protectively across their breasts. Since we’re in Dixie, I remind us that enslaved women were, in fact, forced to suckle someone else’s children. We are quiet for a moment, protecting our breasts, thinking about that. “That’s it,” says one of the faculty members as she walks past me after the class, “I’m giving up dairy.” An alliance between feminists and animal liberation activists is long overdue. Animal advocates must make explicit and purposeful coalitions with individuals and organizations working for the liberation of women. - 23 -
  26. 26. Milk is the most promising potential joint project. Cows are forcibly and repeatedly impregnated so that their bodies will produce milk for their calves. People then steal both the milk and the calves in order to produce profits for the dairy and veal industries. The cows suffer painful physical ailments, such as mastitis, as well as the emotional distress of having their children and their own freedom torn away from them. Meanwhile, milk products are responsible for an unhealthy acceleration in the onset of menses in girls and are also correlated with breast cancer in women. Thus the mammary glands of cows are exploited in order to produce a product that harms the mammary glands of women. Eggs are another option. Here again, female animals suffer unspeakable torments so that elements of their reproductive systems can be exploited for profit. And, again, the products end up hurting the equivalent part of women’s bodies. Recent research links egg consumption to ovarian cancer. Whatever topic we choose, we must make sure that our efforts are real rather than hypothetical. Theoretical ecofeminism is a contradiction in terms. If we want to heal the ruptures that separate us from the earth, other animals, and ourselves, then we’ve got to do it with our whole selves. Earlier this year, here at the Eastern Shore Sanctuary, a young female Muscovy duck called “Seagull” waded into the fray when a newly arrived rooster, who had been trained by people to be aggressive, started picking on one of the elderly roosters in the front yard. Marching into the middle of the altercation, Seagull said something to each of the roosters in turn and then used her body to walk the aggressor away from the victim, talking to him in a scolding tone the whole time. Our challenge is to be at least as courageous and compassionate in our efforts to repair the damage that our own species has done. If little Seagull is willing to put her body on the line, the least we can do is to follow her lead. - 24 -
  27. 27. Pattrice Jones is coordinator of the Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center. Her chapter “Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the Animal Liberation Front” appears in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Critical Reflections on the Liberation of Animals published by Lantern Books. This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 25 -
  28. 28. Reproductive Autonomy: Crossing the Species Border - Helen Matthews If we are serious about animal liberation, then we must work for the liberation of all animals, human and nonhuman. If we are serious about feminism, then we must shun speciesism just as we shun sexism. No one is free while others are oppressed. And, if we work together, understanding how seemingly different struggles are related to one another, then someday we will all be free.—Pattrice Jones The first chilling moment of awareness I had about the connection between feminism and animal liberation occurred back when I was 15, sitting on the porch with my family about to eat dinner. My dad had barbecued a chicken and it was sitting in the middle of the table. I was looking at it and thinking about the colors, the dark brown and the black. I was thinking it looked burnt, just like burnt skin. I realized that it actually was burnt skin, it wasn’t just resemblance, it was a burnt body. That was when I said, “I’m not eating any dinner, I’m not eating that. I’m gonna be a vegetarian.” That bird, I thought, was conscious once—was once animated with life. Now it was just the centerpiece of a meal. Parts of this once-living bird would even wind up in the trash. In that moment, this collapse— this reduction—became so vivid to me. I think the reduction of “someone to something,” as Carol Adams - 26 -
  29. 29. puts it, is at the core of most violence against other animals. To reduce other animals to things usually means treating their bodies as resources for something you need, manipulating them while they’re alive and/or killing them. I think the way humans are constantly interfering with the bodily autonomy of other animals closely resembles the way males often subordinate females—controlling the body, which is our physical home in the world, our place, and (in a lot of ways) our sense of self. (I guess this is because both forms of domination happen under the umbrella of human-centered “white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” to use bell hooks’ analysis.) Control over the bodies of animals and human females is carried out through specific systems of domination such as sexual objectification in popular imagery, abuse in homes, labor exploitation, linguistic stereotyping, and reproductive control. The High-heel Dichotomy But who are “women,” anyway? This question seems to be the—or one of the—primary issues of feminist theory. Definitions that I’m familiar with refer to a set of character and anatomical traits, political conditions, and fashion statements. But popular definitions of who women are don’t allow for much transformation out of, into, or within “womanhood,” so they can feel as painfully restrictive as a pair of high- heels or a tiny skirt that you desperately try to fit into. Not wanting to perpetuate a reductive definition of “women,” I’m just speaking of people with uteruses and ovaries and the various reproductive organs of the female sex. For human females, reproductive control comes in the form of anti-abortion legislation, the financial inaccessibility of contraceptives through health care plans, the scarcity of abortion providers (particularly affordable ones), the illegalization of many contraceptives, “right-to-know” laws, and intimidation from anti- abortionists. According to the Abortion Access Project, 87 percent of - 27 -
  30. 30. all U.S. counties have no abortion provider. Between 1982 and 2003, they report that the number of abortion providers decreased by 37 percent. The majority of U.S. states have parental involvement laws. And over half of all abortion providers were harassed in 2000, and countless more women are intimidated by protesters just for entering a clinic, even for a regular check-up. In the face of all of this, the media, our schools, our families, churches, workplaces and communities instruct females in various contradictory ways about our sexuality, ranging from the mandate to be celibate to the injunction to be accessible sexual objects for males. So many demands: we’re supposed to be sexually available (even objects of rape) but also chaste, we’re denied adequate contraception from our health care plans and yet are supposed to remain unfertilized. These messages vary according to race and class and physical ability and many other factors of identity. I’m a white, financially stable, 20-something female from the South. Still, from what I’ve seen in my life, I’d bet that these contradictory, confusing messages (which feminists often call the “virgin/whore dichotomy”) are familiar (on some level) to most females in this country. African American women seem to be especially frequent subjects of public debate about reproductive control. The debates around welfare reform, for instance, particularly during the time of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, called up this hostility toward women’s reproduction, especially toward African American pregnancies, which became the imagined national problem in need of a solution. Problematizing African American women’s sexuality is an old patriarchal construct: the hypersexual “black female savage” is out of control and must be restrained, as feminist writers like bell hooks have explained. But history exposes the irony of the stereotype: white male slave owners used enslaved women as “breeders” to produce more slaves. Quoted in an interview, one formerly enslaved woman said she “brought in chillun ev’y twelve mont’s jes lak a cow bringing in a calf.” - 28 -
  31. 31. The Reproduction Farm A few years ago I went to a big conference on reproductive control at Hampshire College. One of the opening speakers, Mina Trudeau, boldly challenged the audience to think about how reproductive control affects other species. For so many cows, chickens, dogs, minks, and other nonhuman animals, the lack of reproductive autonomy is a guaranteed part of existence. Consider farmed pigs. As David Wolfson writes in Beyond the Law: Agribusiness and the Systematic Abuse of Animals Raised for Food Production, “gestating (pregnant) sows and farrowing (birthing) sows are housed in stalls where they are unable to turn around (gestation crates or farrowing crates). Such intensive farming practices result in health problems, including lameness or high death losses” Gestation crates apparently prevent sows from accidentally rolling or stepping on their piglets and make their teats available during lactation. Cows’ reproductive systems are the foundation of the milk industry. Gene Bauston, the founder of a large sanctuary for farmed animals, says: “All cows, whether they live on dry-lot dairy factories in the Southwest or small traditional dairies in the Midwest or Northeast, must give birth in order to begin producing milk. Today, dairy cows are forced to have a calf every year because such a schedule results in maximized milk production and profit. Like human beings, the cow’s gestation period is nine months long, so giving birth every 12 months is physically taxing. The cows’ bodies are further taxed as they are forced to give milk during seven months of their nine-month gestation…it is not uncommon for dairy cows to produce 100 pounds of milk a day— ten times more than they would produce in nature.” According to Bauston, producing so much milk can cause several common physical ailments. One is mastitis, inflammation of the udder. In 1996, about half of dairy cows in the U.S. suffered from mastitis. Dairy cows also develop ketosis, a metabolic disorder, and - 29 -
  32. 32. laminitis, which leads to lameness. Also common are Bovine Leukemia Virus, Bovine Immunodeficiency Virus, and Johne’s disease. Chicken bodies are also captive resources of industrial agriculture. Egg laying hens are subjected to forced molting in factory farming complexes, meaning that light, food and water are withheld for up to 14 days in order to control egg output. This serves to “shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle,” as Bauston says. Other domesticated animals, like dogs, are also reproductively manipulated. Joan Dunayer in her book Animal Equality points to an article in the American Kennel Club’s magazine that “recommends ‘holding the bitch in the proper position,’ with straps or by her legs, and ‘assist[ing]’ the male in ‘penetration.’” Like farmed and companion animals, lab animals also are bred for mass production. The degradation of these sentient creatures is most evident in lab animal industry catalogues where they are often sold for a price per “unit.” Horses are used to produce the estrogen replacement drug Premarin (named after its source, PREgnant MARes’ urINe). Manufacturing Premarin involves taking the urine from pregnant horses and the mares are routinely impregnated for this purpose. The animal advocacy group United Animal Nations says, “Premarin mares are confined to small stalls for months on end while their urine is collected and…their foals are herded off to slaughter every year to be sold to European meat markets.” Thousands of mares are basically immobilized in these stalls, and in the winter, as one concerned activist explains, “you see ice on the walls [of the barns], and they have to lay down on cold, ice-cold concrete floors.” Constant forced impregnation of these horses is necessary for the production of Premarin. Ironically, Premarin manufacturers exploit the reproductive systems of horses to market their product to menopausal women. - 30 -
  33. 33. The Worn and Weary When reproductive exhaustion has finally worn their bodies down, many animals are killed, especially those in agribusiness. No longer able to produce milk, dairy cows, for example, are killed for meat. Farmers send them to slaughter after they’ve lived only a small fraction of their lives. Sometimes they literally become trash, since their meat is usually “low grade” and used in junk food that often winds up half-eaten in a dumpster. The fight for liberation from reproductive domination isn’t just a human struggle, although many feminists construe it this way. Similarly, if animal liberationists really want to end the oppression of other animals, we’ll have to understand how that oppression is mirrored in the daily experiences of human females. Reproductive autonomy is a need that cuts across species barriers. It is a solid and heavy example of the overall lack of bodily integrity that both human females and other animals endure. Helen Matthews, a.k.a. Homefries, has been working on connecting social justice and animal liberation issues for five years. She has worked with Boston Ecofeminist Action, and facilitates workshops on feminism and animal liberation at conferences, community centers and universities around the country. This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 31 -
  34. 34. Is Heterosexism Different? - Gary L. Francione Since we have launched the new site, I have been receiving dozens of questions every day. Unfortunately, I am not able to answer all of them personally, but I do appreciate your interest in the abolitionist approach. There are, however, some questions that I feel compelled to respond to because they go so directly to the philosophy that I am trying to promote. Last week, someone wrote the following: I understand that speciesism is problematic because it is like racism and sexism because it attaches a negative value to species in the same way that racism attaches a negative value to race or sexism attaches a negative value to the status of being a woman. But you also often liken speciesism to heterosexism and I think that there is a difference here because unlike race or sex, which have no inherent moral value, sexual relations between members of the same sex may be considered as immoral because such conduct is not natural. This is not the first time that I have heard this position expressed and I want to address it and explain why I think that heterosexism cannot be distinguished from racism or sexism. First, those who defend racism or sexism do maintain that there are “natural” differences between whites and people of color, or between - 32 -
  35. 35. men and women, that justify differential and discriminatory treatment and that make equality between the races or sexes “unnatural.” That is, racists and sexists do not regard their views as arbitrary; rather, they see their views as preserving a “natural” order, based on the supposedly empirical superiority of whites or the superiority of men. Second, heterosexism is similar to racism and sexism in that it excludes gays and lesbians from full membership in the moral community based on sexual orientation that is considered as “unnatural” by heterosexuals, who see heterosexuality as representing a superior orientation. There are some who claim that being gay or lesbian is “unnatural” because such relationships cannot result in the production of children. There are many ways for gay or lesbian couples to become parents. Similarly there are many heterosexual couples who use reproductive technologies, adoption or surrogacy to become parents. Moreover, there are many heterosexuals who cannot have children or choose not to have children. Is there anything “unnatural” about their having relationships despite this limitation or choice? Remarkably, even today, we hear that old “recruitment” chestnut being argued—the claim that gays and lesbians are more inclined to impose their orientation on others, particularly children. This claim is without any empirical foundation; indeed the opposite is true. As a high school student, I cannot recall ever hearing of an instance of a gay or lesbian teacher “hitting on” a student, but I recall plenty of instances in which straight male teachers engaged in thoroughly unacceptable conduct with female students. In many ways, the argument that gays and lesbians will “recruit” young people is on a par with the argument, advanced in the not-too-distant past, that men of color really “covet” white women and will take them all if we do not enforce segregation. Finally, there are those who see the gay/lesbian orientation as “unnatural” for religious reasons. The problem with this view is that - 33 -
  36. 36. slavery, the oppression of women, and just about every other form of discrimination, is supported by various religious doctrines or, at least, particular interpretations of those doctrines. Remember, that the Bible was used as a primary source for the justification of human slavery. Therefore, I stand by my view that species discrimination is no different from racism, sexism, or heterosexism, but I am reminded just how much work remains to be done to dismantle the pervasive structures of prejudice in our society. This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 34 -
  37. 37. Ten Things to Remember: Anti-Racist Strategies for White Student Radicals - Chris Dixon After many years as a white student radical (in high school and then college), I’m reconsidering my experience. I made a lot of mistakes and was blind in many ways, particularly as a white person. What follows are some lessons that I am learning, some strategies for reflecting on, interrogating, and disrupting racism in our lives. 1. Transforming the world means challenging and changing institutions and ourselves. Systems of oppression are ingrained in both and, accordingly, must be confronted in both. More than once an activist of color or an actively anti-racist white person has confronted me: “Why are you always rushing off to do solidarity actions with people in other parts of the world when you don’t even make time to deal with your own shit?” They’re right. As white student activists, we are in fact notorious for protesting injustices across the globe, yet neglecting to confront systems of oppression on our campuses, in our communities, and in ourselves. Being an effective student activist means making priorities, and at times we must prioritize slower-paced, not-so-flashy work over dramatic actions that offer immediate gratification. Being an effective white student activist means prioritizing daily dismantlement of white privilege--creating and participating in forums for whites to grapple with racism, allying with struggles that people of color are engaged - 35 -
  38. 38. in, constantly remaining open to our own mistakes and feedback from others. 2. Predominantly white activist organizations are built within society as it is and, as a result, are plagued by racism and other forms of oppression. We can minimize or deny this reality (“we’re all radicals here, not racists”) or we can work to confront it head-on. Confronting it requires not only openly challenging the dynamics of privilege in our groups, but also creating structures and forums for addressing oppression. For instance, two experienced activists I know often point out that, sadly, Kinko’s [Ed. American version of Office Works] has a better sexual harassment policy than most activist groups. Workers are accountable for their actions and victims have some means of redress. With all of our imaginative alternatives to capitalist and hierarchical social arrangements, I have no doubt that we can construct even more egalitarian and comprehensive ways of dealing with sexism, racism, and other oppressive forces in our organizations. And we must start now. 3. We absolutely should not be “getting” people of color to join “our” organizations. This is not just superficial; it’s tokenistic, insulting, and counterproductive. Yet this is the band-aid that white activists are often quick to apply when accused of racist organizing. Mobilizing for the WTO protests, for example, I had one white organizer reassure me that we didn’t need to concern ourselves with racism, but with “better outreach.” In his view, the dynamics, priorities, leadership, and organizing style, among other important features of our group, were obviously beyond critical scrutiny. But they shouldn’t be. We must always look at our organizations and ourselves first. Whose voices are heard? Whose priorities are adopted? Whose knowledge is valued? The answers to these questions define a group more than - 36 -
  39. 39. how comprehensive its outreach is. Consequently, instead of looking to “recruit” in order to simply increase diversity, we, as white activists, need to turn inward, working to make truly anti-racist, anti-oppressive organizations. 4. We have much to learn from the leadership of activists of color. As student organizers Amanda Klonsky and Daraka Larimore- Hall write, “Only through accepting the leadership of those who experience racism in their daily lives, can white students identify their role in building an anti-racist movement.” Following the lead of people of color is also one active step toward toppling conventional racial hierarchies; and it challenges us, as white folks (particularly men), to step back from aggressively directing everything with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Too often white students covet and grasp leadership positions in large campus activist groups and coalitions. As in every other sector of our society, myths of “merit” cloak these racial dynamics, but in reality existing student leaders aren’t necessarily the “best” leaders; rather, they’re frequently people who have enjoyed lifelong access to leadership skills and positions-- largely white, middle-class men. We need to strengthen the practice of following the lead of activists of color. We’ll be rewarded with, among other things, good training working as authentic allies rather than patronizing “friends”; for being an ally means giving assistance when and as asked. 5. As white activists, we need to shut up and listen to people of color, especially when they offer criticism. We have to override initial defensive impulses and keep our mouths tightly shut, except perhaps to ask clarifying questions. No matter how well-intentioned and conscientious we are, notice how much space we (specifically white men) occupy with our daily, self- - 37 -
  40. 40. important jabber. Notice how we assume that we’re entitled to it. When people of color intervene in that space to offer something, particularly something about how we can be better activists and better people, that is a very special gift. Indeed, we need to recognize such moments for what they are: precious opportunities for us to become more effective anti-racists. Remember to graciously listen and apply lessons learned. 6. White guilt always gets in the way. Anarcha-feminist Carol Ehrlich explains, “Guilt leads to inaction. Only action, to re-invent the everyday and make it something else, will change social relations.” In other words, guilt doesn’t help anyone, and it frequently just inspires navel-gazing. The people who experience the brunt of white supremacy could care less whether we, as white activists, feel guilty. Guilt doesn’t change police brutality and occupation, nor does it alter a history of colonialism, genocide, and slavery. No, what we really have to offer is our daily commitment and actions to resist racism. And action isn’t just protesting. It includes any number of ways that we challenge the world and ourselves. Pushing each other to seriously consider racism is action, as are grappling with privilege and acting as allies. Only through action, and the mistakes we make and the lessons we learn, can we find ways to work in true solidarity. 7. “Radical” doesn’t necessarily mean getting arrested, engaging in police confrontations, or taking to the streets. These kinds of actions are important, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of effective activism. Indeed, exclusively focusing on them ignores crucial questions of privilege and overlooks the diverse, radical ways that people resist oppression every day. In the wake of the WTO protests, for instance, many white activists are heavily - 38 -
  41. 41. focused on direct action. Yet in the words of anti-capitalist organizer Helen Luu, “the emphasis on this method alone often works to exclude people of colour because what is not being taken into account is the relationship between the racist (in)justice system and people of colour.” Moreover, this emphasis can exclude the very radical demands, tactics, and kinds of organizing used by communities of color--struggling for police accountability, occupying ancestral lands, and challenging multinational polluters, among many others. All too frequently “radicalism” is defined almost solely by white, middle-class men. We can do better, though; and I mean we in the sense of all of us who struggle in diverse ways to go to the root-- to dismantle power and privilege, and fundamentally transform our society. 8. Radical rhetoric, whether it’s Marxist, anarchist, Situationist, or some dialect of activistspeak, can be profoundly alienating and can uphold white privilege. More than once, I’ve seen white radicals (myself included) take refuge in our own ostensibly libratory rhetorical and analytical tools: Marxists ignoring “divisive” issues of cultural identity and autonomy; anarchists assuming that, since their groups have “no hierarchy,” they don’t need to worry about insuring space for the voices of folks who are traditionally marginalized; Situationist-inspired militants collapsing diverse systems of privilege and oppression into obscure generalizations; radical animal rights activists claiming that they obviously know better than communities of color. And this is unfortunately nothing new. While all of these analytical tools have value, like most tools, they can be used to uphold oppression even as they profess to resist it. Stay wary. 9. We simply cannot limit our anti-oppression work to the struggle against white supremacy. - 39 -
  42. 42. Systems of oppression and privilege intertwine and operate in extremely complex ways throughout our society. Racism, patriarchy, classism, heterosexism, able-ism, ageism, and others compound and extend into all spheres of our lives. Our activism often takes the form of focusing on one outgrowth at a time--combating prison construction, opposing corporate exploitation of low-wage workers, challenging devastating US foreign policies. Yet we have to continually integrate a holistic understanding of oppression and how it operates--in these instances, how state repression, capitalism, and imperialism rest on oppression and privilege. Otherwise, despite all of our so-called radicalism, we risk becoming dangerously myopic single-issue activists. “Watch these mono-issue people,” warns veteran activist Bernice Johnson Reagon. “They ain’t gonna do you no good.” Whatever our chosen focuses as activists, we must work both to recognize diverse forms of oppression and to challenge them--in our society, our organizations, and ourselves. 10. We need to do all of this anti-racist, anti-oppressive work out of respect for ourselves as well as others. White supremacy is our problem as white people. We benefit from it and are therefore obligated to challenge it. This is no simplistic politics of guilt, though. People of color undeniably suffer the most from racism, but we are desensitized and scarred in the process. Struggling to become authentically anti-racist radicals and to fundamentally change our racist society, then, means reclaiming our essential humanity while forging transformative bonds of solidarity. In the end, we’ll be freer for it. This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 40 -
  43. 43. Anti-Oppression Organizing Tools - Los Angeles Direct Action Network Principles of Anti-Oppression 1. Power and privilege play out in our group dynamics and we must continually struggle with how we challenge power and privilege in our practice. 2. We can only identify how power and privilege play out when we are conscious and committed to understanding how racism, sexism, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression affect each one of us. 3. Until we are clearly committed to anti-oppression practice all forms of oppression will continue to divide our movements and weaken our power. 4. Developing an anti-oppression practice is life long work and requires a life long commitment. No single workshop is sufficient for learning to change one’s behaviors. We are all vulnerable to being oppressive and we need to continuously struggle with these issues. 5. Dialogue and discussion are necessary and we need to learn how to listen non defensively and communicate respectfully if we are going to have effective anti-oppression practice. Challenge yourself to be honest and open and take risks to address oppression head on. - 41 -
  44. 44. Anti-Oppression Practice These practices are based on a series on conversations on the issue of racism. We recognize that there are many other forms of oppression that must be addressed. We have taken these practices and attempted to generalize them to other forms of oppression. This list is a beginning and it needs to be expanded upon. In the future we will continue discussions on all forms of oppression. • When witnessing or experiencing racism, sexism, etc interrupt the behavior and address it on the spot or later; either one on one, or with a few allies. • Give people the benefit of the doubt. Think about ways to address behavior that will encourage change and try to encourage dialogue, not debate. • Keep space open for anti-oppression discussions; try focusing on one form of oppression at a time - sexism, racism, classism, etc. • Respect different styles of leadership and communication. • White people need to take responsibility for holding other white people accountable. • Try not to call people out because they are not speaking. • Be conscious of how much space you take up or how much you speak. • Be conscious of how your language may perpetuate oppression. • Don’t push people to do things just because of their race and gender, base it on their word and experience and skills. • Promote anti-oppression in everything you do, in and outside of activist space. • Avoid generalizing feelings, thoughts, behaviors etc. to a whole group - 42 -
  45. 45. • Set anti-oppression goals and continually evaluate whether or not you are meeting them. • Don’t feel guilty, feel motivated. Realizing that you are part of the problem doesn’t mean you can’t be an active part of the solution! This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 43 -
  46. 46. Common Natures, Shared Fates: Toward an Interspecies Alliance Politics - Steven Best The eyes of the world were transfixed on the fiery ruins of the World Trade Center collapsing into rubble, as thousands of people were dead or dying. Meanwhile, in an average slaughterhouse, far more pigs, chickens, turkeys, or cattle were killed that same moment in other terrorist acts. One act of terrorism was extraordinary, illegal, and immoral while the other was routine, legal, and perfectly acceptable to the minds of most people. 9-11 was a tragedy of the first order, and received nonstop media coverage, but every second is a 9-11 attack on the animals, an assault that transpires under the cover of indifference and unfolds in a far more prolonged, torturous, and barbaric manner. Dare one make a comparison between human and animal suffering? Few things raise the hackles of some people more than drawing analogies between factory farms with concentration camps. In a letter to Vegan Voice, Karen Davis, President of United Poultry Concerns, compared the human and animal holocausts of 9-11. She was immediately tarred and feathered, and her infamy even earned her an interview on the Howard Stern show. With Karen Davis and others, I am who dares to say suffering of human and nonhuman species is comparable in terms of the attention and response it should merit. We stand in good company for, as documented in Charles Patterson’s powerful book, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, many survivors of the holocaust and - 44 -
  47. 47. people of Jewish descent see common roots in the mass killing of animals and Nazi genocide. As Theodor Adorno says, “Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.” A Multiperspectival Theory of Power It is important to grasp the similarities and differences among various modes of oppression for both theoretical and political reasons. This understanding is the basis of a multiperspectival theory of power and a politics of alliance. A diverse and comprehensive theory of power is necessary for a politics of liberation, for alliances cannot be formed without understanding how different modes of power overlap and converge, affecting and implicating more than one group. Power systems often invoke multiple ideologies to oppress any one group, as capitalism has used racism and sexism as tools to divide and conquer the working class. Indeed, an abstract term like “the working class” masks the heterogeneity of people that comprise it and the various modes of power they suffer and resist. Consequently, domination and injustice need to be resisted from numerous angles simultaneously. Power is diverse, complex, and interlocking, and it cannot be adequately illuminated from the standpoint of any one group or concern. Similarly, no single group can achieve liberation on its own or, certainly, emancipate other oppressed communities. The mindset and institutions of power, violence, exploitation, domination, and discrimination spring from numerous phenomena such as the emergence and elaboration of hierarchical systems, the bureaucratic needs of the state, aversion to difference and otherness (the basis of racism and xenophobia), and the wanton sacrifice of all living beings to the alter of profit. Power and domination are not only political and economic phenomena, since they also have an important psychological component. A distinct human pathology, for instance, is contempt for nature (what Jim Mason coins “misothery” - 45 -
  48. 48. in his superb book, An Unnatural Order: Why We Are Destroying the Planet and Each Other), including the earth, animals, and our own bodies, the object of much fear and loathing. Moreover, power systems require legitimating ideologies, as capitalism thrives on the belief that human beings are inherently competitive. Similarly, current carnivorous practices are sustained by the mythologies that human beings are flesh-eaters by nature, that God intended us to eat animals, and that all life forms quite naturally kill other life forms. The origins of domination and oppression are shrouded in prehistory, but many theorists have attempted to bring them to light. This is certainly a risky, speculative, and controversial enterprise. For example, did the domination of nature lead to the domination of human beings, as many Marxists argue, or did the domination of human beings lead to the domination of nature, as claimed by social ecologist Murray Bookchin? Some theorists attempt to reduce all modes of oppression to one, such as gender, race, or class, which they privilege as the font of power from which all others spring. Most notoriously, classical Marxists subsumed all struggles to class. Other social concerns such as patriarchy and racism were reduced to “questions,” dismissed as divisive, and to be postponed to post- revolutionary society where allegedly they would be moot anyway. The resurfacing of bureaucracies, nationalism, sexism, and racism in “existing socialist societies” refuted this Procrustean outlook. Marxist feminists and race theorists, for instance, observed that the hierarchical class logic of capitalism only needs an empty space to exploit laborers, but that the logic of patriarchy and racism dictates who will fill the lowest slots. But some feminists and race theorists privilege their mode of oppression as primordial. Radical feminists claim that patriarchy is the fundamental hierarchy in history, and some ecofeminists invert the patriarchal hierarchy to champion women by nature as superior to men. I think the best approach is to advance a multiperspectival approach that sees both what is similar among various modes of oppression - 46 -
  49. 49. and what is specific to each. There are a plurality of modes and mechanisms of power that have evolved throughout history, and different accounts provide different insights into the workings of power and domination. According to feminist standpoint theory, each oppressed group has an important perspective or insight into the nature of society. People of color, for instance, can illuminate colonialism and the pathology of racism, while women can reveal the logic of patriarchy that has buttressed so many different modes of social power throughout history. While animals cannot speak about their sufferings, it is only from the standpoint of animal exploitation that we can grasp the nature of speciesism, glean key facets of the pathology of human violence, and illuminate important aspects of misothery and the social and environmental crisis society now faces. Understanding the intimate relationship between human and animal oppression blocks the tired objection voiced to those who express concern for animals, “But what about human suffering?” Whether they realize it or not, activists who promote veganism and animal rights are ipso facto engaging a vast complex of problems in the human world. For when human beings are violent to animals, they are violent toward one another; when they instrumentalize animals as mere resources for their own consumption, they stunt their own psychological growth and capacities for compassion; when they destroy the habitat of animals, they impair the ecological systems they too require; and when they slaughter animals for food, they exacerbate the problem of world hunger, they compound the environmental crisis in a myriad of ways, and they devastate their own health and drain human resource budgets. In her compelling book The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery, Marjorie Spiegel shows that the exploitation of animals provided a model, metaphors, and technologies and practices for the dehumanization and enslavement of blacks. From castration and chaining to branding and ear cropping, whites drew on a long history of subjugating animals to oppress blacks. Once perceived as beasts, - 47 -
  50. 50. blacks were treated accordingly. In addition, by denigrating people of color as “beasts of burden,” an animal metaphor and exploitative tradition facilitated and legitimated the institution of slavery. The denigration of any people as a type of animal is a prelude to violence and genocide. Many anthropologists believe that the cruel forms of domesticating animals at the dawn of agricultural society ten thousand years ago created the conceptual model for hierarchy, statism, and the exploitation treatment of other human beings, as they implanted violence into the heart of human culture. From this perspective, slavery and the sexual subjugation of women is but the extension of animal domestication to humans. Patterson, Mason, and numerous other writers concur that the exploitation of animals is central to understanding the cause and solution to the crisis haunting the human community and its troubled relationship to the natural world. The Logic of Discrimination and Moral Evolution When we compare speciesism to classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other modes of discrimination, we see they share a similar logic. In each case, there is a rigid dualism established between different groups (e.g., whites vs. people of color, men vs. women, humans vs. animals) that denies their commonality. But these dualisms are not innocent, and the distinctions are arranged in a hierarchy that privileges one group as superior and denigrates the other as inferior. As every power system has a justification, dualistic hierarchies are the theory for the practice of the domination and exploitation of marginalized groups. Every power system involves the category of the Other to posit violations to the norms that are privileged and protected. But, in every case of oppression, the alibi of power is arbitrary and rooted in bias and prejudice rather than a defensible rational standpoint. In classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and speciesism, we - 48 -
  51. 51. therefore find the same ploys of power involving the logic and structures of exclusion. No matter what group it targets, prejudice is prejudice and needs to be extirpated by an enlightened society. Just as no democracy worth its name can work only for the economic elite, whites, men, or heterosexuals, it is equally true that the great “world house” envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. cannot consistently contain speciesism and the vast industries of killing animals for food, sport, experimentation, or entertainment. The great moral learning process of human evolution involves ever more people understanding that while differences between humans and among species certainly exist, the similarities are more morally significant. Factual differences, in other words, have no moral relevance in assigning which group has rights and which group does not. Alleged human traits of intellectual and linguistic superiority over animals are no more relevant than appeals to gender, skin color, or sexual preference within the human community. The commonalities of oppression help us to narrativize the history of human moral consciousness, and to map the emergence of moral progress in our culture. This trajectory can be traced through the gradual universalization of rights. By grasping the similarities of experience and oppression, we gain insight into the nature of power, we discern the expansive boundaries of the moral community, and we acquire a new vision of progress and civilization, one based upon ecological and non-speciesist principles and universal justice. Rethinking Community Enlightened thinkers such as Dr. Albert Schweitzer and ecologist Aldo Leopold have worked to broaden the notion of community to include animals and the land. If we consider the meaning of “community,” we see that it entails mutual interdependence of living beings in a context of shared norms and expectations, held together by values of reciprocity and respect. Schweitzer and Leopold expand - 49 -
  52. 52. the definition of community to encompass animals, and some deep ecologists include the earth in all its aspects, such that it becomes evident our true community is not our town, our city, our state, our nation, or even the globe, but rather the entire planet. Our real community, in a word, is the biocommunity, the community of all living beings and the nonliving things that sustain life. One may wonder how animals and the earth itself -- every rock, river, tree, and grain of sand -- can count as a valid definitional aspect of “community.” One need not resort to mysticism to grasp this vast systemic interdependence, as the answer lies squarely within the domain of the science of ecology. No one truly is independent; rather we are all dependent on one another for the benefits we enjoy in society. Not only are we dependent on fellow human beings for our lives, we are also, quite obviously, dependent on the earth as it provides the air, water, sunshine, and food that sustain us. In his theory of Gaia (the Greek word for “earth”), NASA scientist James Lovelock described the planet as a self-regulating and self- organizing superorganism in which every element exists in a vast feedback loop of interaction with everything else. Animals, insects, and microorganisms too are an essential aspect of Gaia, as the earthworms vitalize the soil; the birds, bees, and other pollinators spread the seeds of life; insects maintain the ground and growth of the rainforests; and animals help sustain the habitats in which they live. If our true community is the biocommunity, the question is begging to be asked: are we good citizens in this community? Cleary not: we are colonizers, plunderers, murderers, and thieves who steal from other life forms and from future generations of human beings. Although dependent on everything else on the earth, we fancy ourselves supremely aloof and independent in our floating technological castles. - 50 -
  53. 53. The Hypocrisy of the Political Left From the perspective of ecology and animal rights, Marxists and other social “radicals” have been extremely reactionary forces. It is taxing to sit at a table full of critical theorists, feminists, postcolonialists, and other social justice advocates, all excoriating capitalist exploitation while they devour bloody steaks and smear pig ribs and chicken grease across their overfed faces. In works such as his 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, Karl Marx advanced a naturalistic theory of human life, but like the dominant Western tradition he posited a sharp dualism between human and nonhuman animals, arguing that only human beings have consciousness and a complex social world. Nonhuman animals, he claims, are mere creatures of instinct and exist as part of the natural world for human beings to “humanize,” as humanity evolves in and through its technological transformation of the natural world. While there is lively debate over whether or not Marx had an environmental consciousness, there is no question he was a speciesist and the product of an obsolete paradigm that continues to mar progressive social theory. Consider the case of Michael Albert, a prolific author and co-founder of Z Magazine and Z Net, noted Left publishing forums. In a recent interview with the animal rights and environmental magazine Satya, he states: “when I talk about social movements to make the world better, animal rights does not come into my mind. I honestly don’t see animal rights in anything like the way I see women’s movements, Latino movements, youth movements, and so on... a large-scale discussion of animal rights and ensuing action is probably more than needed... but it just honestly doesn’t strike me as being remotely as urgent as preventing war in Iraq or winning a 30-hour work week.” While I do not expect a blatant anthropocentrist like Albert to see animal and human suffering as even roughly comparable, I cannot fathom privileging a work reduction for humans who live relatively comfortable lives to ameliorating the obscene suffering of tens of billion of animals who are confined, tortured, and killed each year. - 51 -
  54. 54. Moreover, Albert lacks the holistic vision to grasp the profound connections between animal abuse and human suffering. The problem with such myopic Leftism stems not only from Karl Marx himself, but the traditions that spawned him -- modern humanism and the Enlightenment. To be sure, the move from a God-centered to a human-centered world, from the crusades of a bloodthirsty Christianity to the critical thinking and autonomy ethos of the Enlightenment, were massive historical gains, and animal rights builds on them. But modern social theory and science perpetuated one of worst aspects of Christianity (in the standard interpretation that understands dominion as domination), namely the view that animals are mere resources for human use. Indeed, the situation for animals worsened considerably under the impact of modern sciences and technologies that brought us vivisection, genetic engineering, cloning, factory farms, and slaughterhouses. In short, the modern “radical” tradition stands in continuity with the entire Western heritage of anthropocentrism, and in no way can be seen as a liberating philosophy from the standpoint of the environment and other species on this planet. A truly revolutionary social theory and movement must incorporate a new ethics of nature, as it maintains a commitment to Enlightenment norms, human justice, and anti-capitalism. In the last two decades in Europe and the U.S., Green parties have emphasized progressive social concerns in conjunction with environmental values. But Greens typically have not endorsed animal rights and vegetarianism, and often they are as speciesist as any Leftist or politically “progressive” group. The Green Party USA upholds “ten key values” that promote respect, solidarity, justice, nonviolence, and sustainability, but they fail to say a word about the holocaust of animal destruction and its impact on peoples and the earth. In section III K 12 of their Platform 2000, however, entitled “Biological Diversity,” we read this promising note: “Finally, as Greens, we must add that the mark of a humane and civilized society truly lies in how we treat the - 52 -
  55. 55. least protected among us. To extend rights to other sentient, living beings is our responsibility and a mark of our place among all of creation. We find cruelty to animals to be repugnant and criminal. We call for an intelligent, compassionate approach to the treatment of animals.” This is a leap in awareness for a human rights/environmental Party, and holds some promise that strong alliances among the vegan, animal rights, Green, and social justice communities can be forged. [Ed. The Australian Greens are more vocal in their support of vegetarianism and animal rights issues and have specific animal policies, which encourage vegetarian education and its benefits for animals, human heath and the environment.] Interspecies Solidarity The need for justice is universal. In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Racism and sexism, for instance, have divided the working community and prevented them from achieving the power of a united front against corporate exploiters. Human beings must see that this “inescapable network of mutuality” includes nonhuman animals and that their plight is our plight, even if one cares only about human problems. In so many ways, what we do to the animals, we do to ourselves. Any form of hierarchical consciousness can feed into and reinforce another; and thus we must continually attack dualistic, discriminatory, and hierarchical frameworks until the hydra-headed monster of prejudice and oppression is slayed entirely. The exploitation of farmed animals provides a vivid illustration of the centrality of animal concerns to human issues and the vast interconnected effects of exploiting any single group. After World War II, as animals became ever more intensively produced as food commodities, family farms were increasingly replaced by factory - 53 -
  56. 56. farms. This monumental shift meant not only that animals would be raised indoors within intensive conditions of confinement, creating unprecedented levels of suffering, but also that huge corporations were gaining control of small scale farms and driving out families who cared for their land for generations. To work inside the filthy and dangerous factory farms and slaughterhouses, corporations exploited immigrant labor and other destitute and desperate workers. To control diseases and maximize growth, agribusiness pumped massive doses of antibiotics into the animals, helping to create widespread resistance to important drugs. To make animals grow as large and fast as possible, they injected them with growth hormones and eventually began to genetically engineer and clone them. Besides high doses of saturated fat and cholesterol and protein, the public was consuming a plethora of dangerous chemicals. Factory farms also generate huge amounts of chemicals and waste which foul the air, poison waterways, and destroy communities. Thus, because of its far-reaching consequences, injury to farmed animals brought immense harm to farmers, workers, consumers, and the environment. Far from being irrelevant to social movements, animal rights can form the basis for a broad coalition of social groups and drive changes that strike at the heart of capitalist exploitation of animals, people, and the earth. One stellar example of a great social activist who grasped the whole picture was Cesar Chavez, noted not only for being a vegetarian but also for opposing spectacles of animal cruelty such as the rodeo. There are limits to what animal rights activists can support, however, as they would never endorse better wages for underpaid poultry workers. Instead, they would advance the abolition of animal food industries and reemployment of workers in humane and ethically acceptable occupations. Similarly, the animal rights community cannot join consumer groups to advocate “organic” meat or embrace the “slow foods” movement which although a critique of fast food culture and the corporate takeover of agriculture, - 54 -