No one wants to take responsibility for their speciesism

responsibility_for_speciesism

No one wants to take responsibility for their speciesism
not the religions, the religious
not the philosophies, the philosophers
not the natural sciences, the natural scientists …
when you when you ask them.
Respecting nonhuman autonomy, respecting nonhuman groups, individuals, cultures, ecologies … seems to be a matter of wilful and an out-of-nowhere-happening sort of empathical enlightenment? The distinct reasons for nonhuman oppression being rooted in our cultures and societies, in our histories thus, are simply being kept unadmitted, undisclosed.

Gruppe Messel, Tierautonomie / Animal Autonomy, specifics of speciesism: no one takes responsibilities

Inhibiting normalcies within activism

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Activism as a practical focus

  • on the marketing of ready made vegan products
    plus
  • vegan cooking
    plus
  • ones public physical self-presentation as a vegan example

seems to take quite a space in the iconography created by some vegans. It transports a consumerist image to me.

This seems to vary though with current cultural habits, normalcies and practices, as in some places the focus tends to be more on helping and supporting nonhumans and human individuals/groups as a form of visible, political and standardly represented plant-powered activism – such as generally in Turkey and Brazil for instance and in the Black vegan movement and the VegansofColor movement in the US.

In general also I observe the obsession with photographing oneself in public at activist events or activivism-related opportunities. This in itself seems to count as a proven and valid form of expected social integration and a trustworthy marker of activist efficacy. This also requires that you are able-bodied and don’t suffer from any social phobia, it also requires you to accept social patterns of the peer group dynamics you are partaking in.

The problem is about the norms that are created and upheld (…) even with a broader, informed knowledge. Such norms create spaces of social divergence for those who decide to communicate differenlty, also by chosing other forms of expressing their basic political positions.

Image … of a Bestia obscura, by Farangis.de.

Nonhuman-inclusive

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Nonhuman-inslusive

The term ‘veganism’ describes the ethical and practical exclusion of any animal- and animal derived product or animal-involving procedures/exploitation utilized to serve human interests. It does not say or indicate yet how nonhuman animals should be implied actively into any framework that implies humans/human societies, as a solution to the existent predominant catastrophic human-animal relation. How nonhumans can and should be included and reached out for, be addressed, implied constructively in a way that confronts the ‘animal question’ with due justice, in n toher words: the state of positively dwelling together is not so much and only indirectly put forward.*

Similalry ther term ‘speciesism’ describes the condition of ethical exclusion, now on a basically sociological level. It describes foremostly the biological categorisation yet inasmuch also other forms of categorization – such as religion, philosophical, scientific, etc. – of arbitrary derogative barriers set up by humans/’human cultures and civilization’ towards nonhuman animals.

We thought now to express the direct inclusionary level by a simple term which can be used practically and applied as a scheme to test any settings, condition … to check any given situative constellation for its nonhuman-inclusiveness!

This is about expressing an idea:

For checking anything for its nonhuman-inclusiveness you logically have to open up perspectivcs of how your view of nonhumans can be reasonable and ethically complete, appreciative and open-minded.

You can thus explicitly create, observe, discuss, design, conceptualize each and every aspect of human life in a nonhuman-inclusive approach.

Sounds perhaps too practical and maybe this seems to short a description of our idea, but we find it a helpful angle in our activities.

It should be added that our nonhuman-inclusive approach can be extended into a nonhuman-considerate direction where a seeming absence of nonhumans can be affirmative of nonhuman interests also indirectly, by a decided avoidance of promoting human concepts which openly or subtly suppress nonhumanity and nonhuman animals, but this will be discussed in a seperate, later post.

* This becomes clear e.g. in veganic projects, which 100 percent represent the vegan idea, yet exclude the question of animal life in a proactive form. Veganic projects don’t imply space for nonhuman animals to be involved in a just yet existentially directly present way.

Being radical antispe …

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A very rough expression of a feeling in regards to radical antispeciesism facing a conflict of being stuck in the middle of biologistic ‘animal lovers’ and nonhumanity-oblivious social justice clusters … :

If social justice work categorically excludes animal bodies, it’s questionable to my point of view. Saying this I don’t mean the type of implication that bases on “mild” speciesist, biologistic views of animality.

I come myself from a ‘mixed’race’ background and I have grown up in a country where you would face exclusion if you did not fit into the right image of the virtual “false-ethicity-person” and the right klischee going along with that. It’s not like all foreigners or poc or mixed-race individuals were equally accepted or discrimnated against. Much was and is dependent on the social function society ascribes you to take in the place you live.

Seeing a lot of people who come from socially comparable backgrounds such as mine working rightly for social justice, I wonder why the majority misses out on antispeciesist intersectionality though? To my point of view social justice can’t just evade questions of how concepts about animality and nature have been constructed in our societies. How can social justice turn an oblivious eye on zoocide and ecocide, when exactly those are facts that result from the very same foundations on which other oppressive systems thrived, and when those facts are taking place are all around us?

I believe that justice for humanity can hardly base on the oppressive constructs of animality and nature anymore, without being prolonged types of injustice.

Kristofer Aberg: The radical notion that (vegan) Israelis are people

This is a response by Swedish animal rights activist Kristofer Aberg to an article by the Peace and Conflict Studies scholar Shawndeez Davari Jadali: ‘Vegan Killers: Israeli Vegan-Washing and the Manipulation of Morality.

The comment had initially been published on ‘Turkey Agenda’ as a response, but was removed again by the editors one day after publishing.

We asked Kristofer if we could share a copy of his comment on our blog, since this critique is important to be voiced, in support of our fellow Israeli activists and also because of the plurality that we need in the discussion of Animal Rights and vegan politics.

The radical notion that (vegan) Israelis are people

This text as a PDF

Shawndeez Davari Jadali wrote a couple of days ago about Israeli “vegan washing” in Turkey Agenda. Israel, Jews and Zionists have been subjected to a lot of lies and conspiracy theories during the years. Do we really need another one?

First of all: Is it really that hard to understand that you shouldn’t use collective punishments on Israelis just as you shouldn’t do it on Americans? How would Shawndeez Davari Jadali feel if she was to be blamed for the war inIraq, just because she lives in theUS? And that her attempt at peace and conflict studies is just a “peace washing” to make theUSimage better for the world?

The slogan “feminism is the radical notion that women are people” has shown to misogynous men what feminism is really about. It seems like people like Jadali need to be taught the radical notion that also Israelis are people! They are not propaganda machines for their government just as Jadali probably wasn’t a propaganda machine for the Bush administration. Israelis can have a life not connected to the conflict with the Palestinians. Jadali’s single minded attitude sounds like someone who has never met a gay person, and then stereotype that person totally. A Swedish comedian therefor said something like “I’m not just gay, I’m also a carpenter”, to point out that you are more than your sexuality. And you are also more than your citizenship. Israelis can be interested in veganism and queer politics just as Jadali or I can.

So where is Jadali’s evidence that it’s the Israeli state that is behind the vegan boom inIsrael? I have been active in the vegan and animal rights movement inSwedensince the 1990’ies, working with low budget grass roots campaigns. I would love to hear about the secrets on how to get your state to support these causes and make a vegan boom such as the one inIsrael! Also, inSweden, and probably in other places, most of the animal rights movement comes from the left/liberal/green side of the political spectra. InIsraelthere is a right wing government, so the conspiracy theory of them being behind the vegan boom seems even harder to believe.

What Javali is doing is to be categorised as the master suppression technique known as double bind – “damn you if you do, damn you if you don’t”. The same thing goes for the people using the “pink washing” theory to blame the Israelis for their liberal attitudes toward the LGBTQ community. IfIsraelwould have a lousy policy on veganism and LGBTQ issues, people like Jadali would have used that to blame them. Now when they are progressive, Jadali comes up with another way to be able to blame them. The same goes for Jadali’s criticism of the Israeli army providing non leather shoes for a minority (vegetarians and vegans). If they would refuse, Jadali would have just had the chance to blameIsraelfor discrimination against minorities. Some more peace and conflict studying of Norwegian social psychologist Berit As is recommended for her.

Also, why criticizeIsraelfor having a population that are progressive on vegan or LGBTQ issues in the first place? Why not take a moment and make the Palestinian side better? In many Arab countries, there is no such thing as a law against discrimination against non straight people, instead there are laws and even death penalty against homosexuality.

Jadali also blamed the Israeli animal rights activists for caring about animals. So why does she target progressive vegans around the world in the first place with her new “vegan washing” conspiracy theory? Vegans are blamed for this inSwedenas well – “how can you care about animals when the children inAfricaare starving” is a common argument from meat eaters. So in what way does eating meat help starving children? Quite the opposite, meat eating is really bad for the environment and for a global solidarity. And why are compassionate activists to be blamed for what they do with their spare time? Why not blame people who use their spare time to just watch soccer, driving cars or partying? Even though Jadali seems to want to label herself as progressive, what she is doing is being really normative, only seeing veganism as a political choice. Some more peace and conflict studying of another social psychologist is recommended for Jadali, this time Melanie Joy and her theories on carnism.

Jadali writes about solidarity with the oppressed and boycotting the occupation. Doesn’t she know that most Palestinians support Hamas, a gay and jew hating islamist terrorist group? They don’t just call the post 1967 settlements in theWest Bankoccupation, they call the whole ofIsraelan occupation.Israelwas founded as a safe haven for the Jewish people after persecution inEuropeandRussia, especially during the second world war. So why not take a moment to study the antisemitism of the world, and especially antisemitism from the Arabs and Palestinians? There is for surely a social psychologist for that as well, otherwise just check out Memri or Palestinian Media Watch.

Myself, I visitedIsraelfor the first time in September this year. The vegan food in Tel Aviv andJerusalemwas wonderful. Unfortunately I missed the vegan festival in October. But I wrote about it in a Swedish vegan magazine. And by doing so, apparently I became part of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy! As an ex student in journalism, I don’t understand how making the news valuation that the world’s largest vegan festival would be a correct event to cover, is an evalutation to blame. Rather, I think it would have been a huge mistake not to cover it. Many people want to hear about vegan news, especially from countries they didn’t think was big in these issues. Even a vegan movement in dictatorships likeSaudi Arabiawould be interesting to hear about. But for some strange reason,Israelapparently should be demonized and treated in a totally different way? Jadali, can we write about theUSvegan and animal rights movement? “Your” war inIraqcaused much more death and destruction during a couple of years than the conflict inIsraelandPalestinehas done for 100 years. And don’t get me started about the war inVietnam…

Jews or Israelis and especially not Israeli vegans should be demonized in the way that Jadali is doing. The progressive people all over the world should get our support. The largest problem as I see it in the conflict are the extreme right wing groups on both sides – not that less animals gets slaughtered or that the sale of tofu is sky rocketing in Israeli supermarkets. Jadali seems to have forgotten what her earlier studies was all about – hopefully creating peace. So to Jadali and all other readers of Turkey Agenda: Shalom and give peas a chance!

Kristofer Aberg, Swedish animal rights activist since 1995

(Links accessed 25. Dec. 2014).

We asked Can Başkent about the interfaces of Atheism and Animal Rights

8 Questions – that we asked Can Başkent about the interfaces of Atheism and Animal Rights

We have asked Can Başkent about the visible and the invisible forms of violence against nonhuman animals and the environment carried out in religious contexts, and if an ethical veganism should entail a rejection of a top-down hierarchical view on the evolution and existence.

This text as a PDF

Can Başkent was born in Istanbul, Turkey. He studied math and philosophy as an undergraduate, received his masters degree in logic in Amsterdamand his doctorate in computer science in New York. He continued his academic path at the Sorbonne and the École Normale Supérieure in philosophy and worked at the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (INRIA) as a researcher. As an activist Can has published a wide range of texts on anarchism, atheism, veganism and animal rights, he’s been engaged with the “Food not Bombs” campaign and launched a campaign to support the vegan prisoner of consciousness Osman Evcan. In 2011 Can founded the “Propaganda Press” (http://propagandayayinlari.net/), in 2013 he co-authored together with the vegan journalist Zülâl Kalkandelen (http://veganlogic.net/) the first enchiridion in Turkish about the political and economic aspects of ethical veganism: “Veganizm: Ahlakı, Siyaseti ve Mücadelesi” (Veganism: its Ethics, Politics and Struggle: http://propagandayayinlari.net/vegan.html). Can’s website is at  http://canbaskent.net/.

Tell me, did you think it was easy to be an atheist in this country, with the main problem being that offending the religious sentiments of others has been branded as a “crime”?
Ramazan’da Ateizm / Ramadan atheism, http://www.canbaskent.net/politika/86.html

Today religious discrimination is recognized as a violation of human rights. While it has been forgotten that religion is itself is a violation of human rights.
Bir Devrimcilik Olarak Ateizm / Reformist atheism, http://www.canbaskent.net/politika/85.html

Can: I’ve always thought that people panic for no reason inTurkey. As an atheist, I had no real difficulty or a problem except from receiving some ridiculous threat emails. The thing inTurkey is that such law is applied only to those people who are very popular. Unless you are on TV every now and then, be on newspapers all the time, prosecution does not care if a regular random citizen violates the law or not. So, it is safer than it looks, and we should not hide behind the fear of law.

1. Witnessing an act of killing

In your text ‘The Festival of the Sacrificed’ (Kurban’in Bayrami, http://www.canbaskent.net/vegan/19.html) you question why an argument of cognitive dissonance in a human being, who does not want to become aware of his/her own cruelty, (because he/she does have to become aware of it), could not be fully applied in the case of public animal sacrifices, so that the notion: ‘if slaughterhouses had glass walls, people would go vegetarian’, seems to be wrong at the annual Feast of Sacrifices for example. It seems there is a social acceptance for an outlived and visible brutality to nonhumans when such an event represents a tradition within the context of a religious praxis.

In the secular West the visibility of the kind of speciesism that is going along with the “killing for ‘meat’” (specifically) is a modified one: killing itself tends to stay mostly or partly invisible, being delegated to be carried out by others. Yet in a mass event of a ritual killing in the name of a religion, the same callousness: Animal = Meat and Animal = Sacrifice is directly visible for anybody, if he/she wants to see it or not. And if someone is willing to partake in the act, he/she can do so and kill a nonhuman on the street. These events have a strong public visibility and count as tied to specifically religiously coloured traditions.

Some people argue that it would be more honest if everybody would have to witness the killing of nonhumans. Is the killing of nonhumans, when it is sanctioned if not encouraged by a religion still the more basic act of speciesism, as being something deeply engrained in our society, while the killing of nonhuman animals for generating “meat” carried out mostly by the butchers or in a slaughterhouse represents a modernism of speciesism, which needs to be deciphered in different terms?

Can: First of all, I never thought that the reason why most people are not vegan is epistemological. It is not because people do not know or are not aware that what they eat/kill is sentient animals. You know, real psychopaths kill their victims physically facing them. Eating those animals, which is beyond hunting for instance, is a similar act. It is more violent, more “manly”.

Clearly, the religion simply reflects this dictum. As there is no god, as the religions were not really sent by a so-called-god, the “holy” texts simply reflect the dominant paradigm.

I have never thought that prioritizing different reflections and practices of speciesism can be a useful idea. However, as they are different reflections, they must be fought against in different terms.

Here is another piece of thought. Understanding the religious practices, the fear behind them, the neediness that established them are important steps in really comprehending as to why people really engage in such horrible acts. You cannot dissolve such crimes without crashing the ideal of “heaven”, fear from unpredictable, etc. So, there is a “humane” and “social” reason as to why it is rational why people sacrifice (young girls, animals, etc.) under these assumptions. So, as long as you cannot smash these assumptions, the rest cannot follow.

2. Coming to terms with entrenched positions?

Ethical vegetarianism can look back on a long history and tradition, dating back before the big monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism). Yet, it’s these religions that take a leading role in our discourse today about the ethics of life and moral behaviour.

The ethical critique against the general society (in the secular sense) phrased by vegan Animal Rights proponents is normally met with different grades of either dismissal and rejection (speciesism) or a relative open-mindedness and willingness to reconsider the questions about the dramatically problematic constitution of society in regards to nonhumans and the natural environment.

With religious belief-systems it seem we only can expect an opening for fundamentally new conceptions to a lesser degree, since their dogmas and principles have already been fixed in their goals in the historical past of the religion – and this would also include the evaluation of live and the determination of hierarchies of beings/existence: fauna, flora and the earth overall stand below God and below the human and will have to be either protected or tyrannized. Also, religious practices and traditions (apart from the dogma) bind the believer to the belief-system, and often imply a view on animals and nature as objects that must be dominated, and that “Man” can handle with benevolence but also with ignorance, without having to fear any further social reproach.

Religions don’t list the destructivity towards our fellow beings and the environment as a top sin, but claim an entitlement of their positions as moral instances and ethical signposts in every question of life. Can this claim of the big world religions, to be able to hand out ethical answers about the entire purpose and meaning of life, be authoritative and/or helpful at all, in times in which society increasingly develops a sensitivity towards the questions of animal- and environmental ethics?

And, to what extent do we have to allow religiously driven positions to access and shape our own ethical debate? Equally: to what extent can we, as Animal Right proponents, simply dismiss them as mainly anthropocentric positions?

Can: Pragmatically, who can deny the dominance of religious vegetarianism inIndia? As you can see, sometimes religions provide some pragmatical benefit, but it is, in the case of Hinduism, entirely coincidental. However, the real problem with people avoiding killing animals for religious reasons, is simply because it is a limited point of view. Yet, most people, religious or not, have limited point of views in life. What I mean is if we politically ignore or refuse the religion as a sociological fact, we risk losing the majority in our political struggle. A revolutionary political struggle can have one of its foot on reality while keeping the other on the future.

Religion is a social phenomenon enabling ruling people. It has an economical side as well as a “moral” side. Thus, it is not difficult to see that the moral code helps the clergy to gain economical (sexual, governmental, etc.) benefits. Thus, we cannot even call it an honest morality.

Politically, there must be a balance, I have to grant. If most people are somewhat believers, and if those people are your target in the animal liberation movements, you have to formulate anti-religious perspectives delicately and directly. This is more or less an art.

After all, in the animal liberation movement, people like you are not my targets, as you are already there. What I am trying to change is the people who eat sausages every day and go to church every week. If I annoy them, it means that more animals will die due to my arrogance and wrong strategy. This is a cost I am not willing to take.

3. Is the apex of existence where “Man” is?

Animal Rights and the protection of natural spaces and habitats for all living beings make up other political, social and moral goals than the goals that the main big religions pursuit, which hold men, being made in the “image of God”, at center-stage. Contrary to this, our non-anthropocentric and anti-speciesist resistance movements phrase new questions about ‘hierarchies-of-being’. Is the questioning of the ‘hierarchies-of-being’ – namely that man can’t dominate the world acting as a “crown of the creation” – a necessary paradigm shift in our thinking, or would it be enough for humans to just pledge to take more responsibility for their co-world and fellow beings, even if that would still just take place with that sense of anthropocentric hubris?

Can: Perhaps now it is a good time to underline that an anthropocentric approach is not an evil in itself. After all veganism is also anthropocentric. People / anthro does not have to be an evil. Thus, it is neither philosophically nor practically useful for us to think or act as non-humans. We have to be humans to be vegan, in other words (forcing your pets to be vegan does not count, for obvious reasons). That said, I believe in a variety in such movements: some people can be more people oriented, some can be more animal/ecology oriented, which is fine. This is [also] relevant to a broader and perhaps more heterodox understanding of god. This is a delicate issue.

If people come up with a harmless notion of god, what would I think? In my opinion, harm is not the only evil associated with god, and removing the harm element does not immediately make it alright. But, in practice, it can help humans and non-human animals. As I said before, we have to be alert when it risks losing animals for political correctness.

I hope you can see the paradox here: animal rights activists sometimes (indirectly) sacrifice animals too, for political correctness. This is an important point to consider.

4. Borders / Barriers?

Religions speak of the indirect duties that we have towards nonhumans and the environment as the compassion and reverence that we ought to have with Gods other creation, and this would count as a human virtue that is favored by God. In the animal liberation movement we form equations that describe nonhumans and the environment in their independent and autonomous dignity, we seek to describe them in their own value, and in this way we postulate different foundations that serve their protection and their defence.

If we confront the animal advocacy- and the environmental movements (as non-anthropocentric ethical frameworks) specifically with the religious belief-systems, as two different social epistemologies that are defining ethics, does the departure from anthropocentrism (the demand of the Animal Rights and parts of the environmental movement) contain a potential of conflict at the moment in which religion (as an anthropocentric framework) takes up a larger space within a society?

In other words: Does religious dogma and authoritarian aspiration (as aspects of religious belief-systems), create restrictions when it comes to the ethical debates that consider anthropocentrism as a barrier in ethical thinking?

Can: No. First of all, the religious philosophy is a very rich and broad field. There are so many great minds who spent their lives writing amazing treatises trying morality with religion. Averroes and Abelard are the first mind coming to my mind. Religion is more complex than what most atheists think, it had many many more great minds than what most atheists think as well. Of course, not every believer is like Abelard (one wishes that), but religious morality can create a crazy and very smart philosophy, and it did.

Of course, in practice, 99.9% of believers consider religious dogma as a framework of restrictions and taboos. In such a world, rational reasoning becomes impossible.

5. A duty to protest?

Can we presuppose a fundamental moral right to create our own spaces for perspectives in freethinking, in which nonhuman animals and the environment are included into the ethical centre, even if this puts us into an antagonist position in particular to strongly religious people and religious communities?

And going a bit further: Can such a freedom in thinking about the human-animal and the human-environmental-relation, exclude us from a “societal contractualism”?

Can: No. Any presupposition in morality can lead to an authoritarianism. If you look at all fascist and dogmatic moralities, you can always find such an essentialist point: they may assume people are evil, or in contrast, they assume people are good in spirit. Clearly, this makes the philosophy easier to construct and digest, but, it simply adds yet another metaphysical assumption to the moral philosophy and risks essentialism. Human and non-human contractualism is a very dangerous field in my opinion, which takes veganism beyond its realistic boundaries and reconstructs it, well, religiously. Namely, I advocate an empiric, dynamic and interactive morality that does not need a foundational assumption or right, that includes the right to live.

6. If there is no golden mean?

If both: religion and animal liberation could be connected in specific points, would we not have to worry that Animal Rights/Liberation and environmental protection again would only have to be contingent/conditional ethical concerns, and that through making compromises or through the combination of animal rights ethics and anthropocentric religion, we would again miss out on the desired fundamental shift in thinking?

In other words: Is it a legitimate fear that in a society, that is ethically and morally strongly influenced by religion, no really new and just perspectives and politics “beyond Homo sapiens” can be evolved?

And connected to this: Does a strongly biologistically assigned field (that is: all the subjects that evolve around nonhuman animals and their natural habitat/the environment) even require a fundamental shift in its ethical, social and political variables?

Can: Well, evolution is a continuous phenomenon. I cannot imagine how the animal liberation movement will be in a hundred years. Even in the past century, we have read an insane amount of good and original ideas supplemented with exciting revolutionary practices. I don’t see any reason why we would consume all future possibilities.

7. A utopia?

Could an anthropocentric religion be stretched and modified so far in its interpretation, that for example, the human alone wouldn’t have a privilege of being an “image of God”, but that instead the entire world would represent a value that needs to be equally merited with the highest respect and reverence?  Would religion even be able to maintain its own meaning, in their ability to create a form of exclusive or/and exceptional identity, if it didn’t have these hierarchical views on worldly existence?

Can: Of course. Many different interpretation of each major religion (including Islam and Buddhism) has this taste. Heteredox Islam provides quite interesting and cool examples on this for instance where every organism is seen as a reflection of god’s good.

8. Physical instincts vs. abstract mind?

With nonhuman animals we define sentience as the decisive and main criterion (in the secular and scientific context) to qualify the meaning and value of their lives in the world. These qualifiers are solely based on the biological constitution of a being and on our understanding of the biological traits.

In the great Abrahamic religions the meaning of live depends on God’s decrees and on the concept of “sin”. The notions of right and wrong, value and non-value, are measured against the parameter “God”.

So, on the secular, scientific plane we have the biological sentience of animality on the one hand, and on the other hand we have an abstract human framework of mind and belief in the religious view of “Man”. Aren’t such separations between sentience and mind perhaps the very point, that keeps the hierarchies and distinctions, that we deal with in speciesism, arbitrarily alive? Isn’t “feeling” also “mind”? The concepts of “Nature” and “God” thus create a dichotomy between a devalued bodily physicality and a God that is the upvalued mind of non-earthen-being. Is the reductionary and narrow concept of “instinct”, i.e. that the animal body should exclusively be ascribed sentience, but not vital mind and spirit, not the necessary conclusion of a religious past, which had already pinned down nonhuman animals as the despised nature-physique of a mindless and non-intelligent earthenly existence?

Can: These are very difficult questions to answer in one paragraph. There are examples for each cases ranging from Spinoza to Averroes, from Abelard to Siddharta. However, the Cartesian approach to animals has been refuted countless times, thus the philosophy adopted a broader and more scientifically oriented approach.

Thank you so much for helping us out with these questions Can!

Can: Thank you for these difficult questions :)

All links have been last accessed on: Oct 12th 2014.

Note: The German translation of this interview will later be published in TIERAUTONOMIE.

Anti-Semitism in the Animal Liberation movement cloaked as pacifism

Anti-Semitism in the Animal Liberation movement cloaked as pacifism

An article on the website Resistance Ecology: Animal Liberation Against Israeli Occupation, We Stand With Palestine (08/13/2014) asks us to assume that all Israeli animal advocacy is in reality Israeli propaganda, and that only Israel (and the US) are culprits to blame for speciesism and ecocide. Really? For the sake of peace we are gonna buy that, the same old scapegoating that all evil is to blame on a (quote): “Zionist program”?

Someone quoted that article on a ethical vegan anti-racist facebook group – that’s how I came across it:

“Although there is a growing movement for animals in Israel, it is important to recognize that this cannot be separated from the colonial policies of the occupation. The dominant narrative is that the Palestinian people are unwilling or incapable of animal advocacy, that they are “primitive” and “barbaric” and thus deserving of occupation by the “green”, “humane”, and “progressive” Israeli state. The reality is that Israel is overwhelmingly destructive to animals, the land, and the people, and has displaced traditional systems and indigenous land to pave way for urban expansion, polluting industries, animal agriculture, road development, water scarcity, and the brutal oppression of the Palestinian people.”

You would think there would be critique of this kind of rhetoric, yet there wasn’t. So I really wonder why anti-semitism, when it’s in the context with the Gaza conflict, goes unnoticed even on anti-racist forums?

I wonder what people really think …

a.) What do they think about what led to the founding of Israel?

b.) Would someone really be willing to assume that all Israeli vegan AR activists are basically doing propaganda and not wonder him-/herself if she/he might hold a rather extreme prejudices against others?

c.) What about other wars now and in history, why are people making wars at all?

d.) This is a difficult question but: Why are we more critical when anything has something to do with the newer ethics of veganism and AR? Why do we tend to undermine such newer efforts when there is no predefined ethical space for them in society yet and additional conflicts occur?

Finally: Do we discuss other forms of atrocities and propaganda going on in the same finger-pointing fashion these days?

There is so much anti-semitism going on. I am really irritated about finding such a direction within the Animal Liberation movement. The mistakes of Israeli politics and the role of religious conflicts given in this context are one thing, but now saying that all vegans and AR people in Israel are having a fake agenda and would be only doing colonialist and settler politics, ignores historical backgrounds and, along with that, evokes bigotry.

Palestinian and Israeli activists have been working together in veg/AR. Look at how these new plants are being crushed amongst the big conflicts. To incite such a witch hunt on fellow AR activists, from anywhere, is unpacifist.

The Israeli group 269 posted on their FB page:

Today,the 27th of June 2014, 269Life Israel joined their Arab brothers and sisters in the Arab village of Shefa-‘Amr (شفاعمرو), to protest for animal liberation.

Many of the passersby were very supportive and took brochures to read further on the issues and hopefully it will bring about more change in the region.

Politics and nationalism means nothing, as long as the animals are suffering and dying by the billions, all over the world. We fight as one, unified and in coexistence.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=661177933976915

 

 

Vegan Türkiye about intersectional vegan outreach and Nonhuman Animal Rights

Four Questions … we asked Vegan Türkiye about intersectional vegan outreach and Nonhuman Animal Rights within the struggle for a redefinition of what an ‘all-encompassing’ political freedom would ideally mean

A compact interview N. Eyck (NiceSwine.Info) led with the progressive Turkish vegan activist group Vegan Türkiye, with some pressing questions about a country’s movement that is bringing impulses for redefining veganism from an activist level as an ethical / political tool.

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Visit Vegan Türkiye’s blog on: http://veganturkiye.blogspot.de/, join them on Twitter: @veganturkiye.

N Eyck: Do you think that the vegan Animal Rights / Animal Liberation movement in Turkey is in a sense “forced” to be intersectional, i.e. are human rights and environmental justice issues inevitably a core part of the vegan AR/AL movement in circumstances of political oppression on a scale such as you currently face them within Turkey?

Vegan Türkiye: First of all, we can say that people in Turkey are under political pressure about what they eat, what they wear, with whom they make love and even how many children they should have. Today inTurkey human rights can be discussed frankly especially after the coups done. However, many people think that the struggle for animal rights should not be started before the end of human rights violations. That is, it should be known that there are human rights instead of ”earthlings rights”. By referring to Tom Regan we tell them that if we wait for the developments of human rights, time for animal rights will never come.

The Vegan movement in Turkey refuses species and class discrimination, it defends LGBTI rights, opposes each kind of urban renewal done for the purpose of annuity and each kind of ecological destruction. On the other hand, working class and traditional reflexes of the left focusing on labor struggle open their doors to this Vegan movement. Collective consciousness occurred with Occupy Gezi (Gezi Park Resistance) shows itself also in the vegan movement. For instance, in occupiedGeziParkthere was a vegan cuisine, which became both a meeting point of Vegans and a place where some met with veganism for the first time.

Some infirmaries, vets those were open and free for 24 hours were set for the animals affected by tear gas used during the occupation, and also announcements to take the animals in safer places were done during the day. One other bad memory from those days was that, the people supporting the animal rights were taken into custody from the commemoration done for all living beings killed / died during occupation.

Streets, squares, academies are not the places where people talk what kind of groups are marginalized, anymore. Vegans naturally reflect their political ideas to every area of life; but, the matter is actually being able to reach the main idea and giving animals right to be free. Furthermore, it is important to be able to make people believe that it is not only activists’ business; it is also each person’s business to deal with animal rights invasions.

N. Eyck: Blogging and social networking plays an essential role in the vegan AR/AL outreach work and info exchange and distribution inTurkey. On a parallel level, could a closer international reciprocal exchange (of ideas and about problems faced), create a new momentum and open up new possibilities for our movement’s progress everywhere? In other words: is there a need for a “round table” in the global vegan AR / AL community to learn from each others experiences, etc.?

Vegan Türkiye: As you said before Internet is a vital tool to make the animal rights movement known all over the country and to share materials related to the movement.  By using the Internet animal rights supporters make brainstorming and inform others as an individual, as a group and even as a civil defense organization. Although each of us has different ethics – it is obvious that we have different action and discourse types. There are sometimes misunderstandings and fierce quarrels, but we haven’t experienced that those quarrels have turned into scandal, yet. We all follow us as online, and support one another. Animal liberty movement is being continued by ceaseless information shared via Internet. In this context, we will not be wrong if we say that the animal liberation movement is fed by social media and blogs.

Globally, more crowded, radical or creative communities are already being followed. A big form of an entity in which different experiences from different countries are shared can be installed instead of a ‘global online’ as a single entity; because, animal rights supporters sometimes ignore the local socio-economic and cultural differences, that is, the kind of struggle for animal rights in a place can be harmful in another place, that is why, everybody should be careful about the movement. Besides having connection via internet, animal rights supporters can also keep in touch face to face even a few times in a year in order to share their knowledge, experiences and problems that they have faced.

N Eyck: Is Animal Rights theorizing and having ones own outspoken (or thought) standpoint about Animal Rights popular within the vegan community inTurkey?

Vegan Türkiye: Animal rights movement is so new in terms of organization. Even if some animal liberation activists are in the movement for so long time it can be said that we are now in trial and error period. Some approaches and works done in abroad lead us in this movement. InTurkey we have failed to have a common main discourse and the reason is actually not to be able to create a cultural base. Meanwhile, the first Turkish work written on veganism was published last year. The book written by Zülal Kalkandelen and Can Başkent was made with readers as online. It’s not a theoretical book, but it’s important for the readers to shed light on animal rights.

N. Eyck: Do you think that a practical and basically political vegan approach can establish a form of veganism that is less convenience foods and less consumerism-orientated? And can veganism become what it wishes to be: a cornerstone for food justice for our entire planet?

Vegan Türkiye: Of course, after a while what I wear, what I eat questions bring other questions, such as how much and from where I consume. You start to question the system established on exploitation. There is a growing bazaar for Vegans and corpus is taking advantage of it. As everybody’s consumption habits and cultures are not the same, we are offering alternatives for vegans.

Some people think that they can share the movement without giving up their comforts. This side of the movement is definitely open to be questioned but we warn them to use the ecological products. We also remind people that they themselves can minimize the ecological damage of the products that they buy. According to the system that we are in, we have some problematic issues. At that point brainstorming should be done with other political and ethical vegans.

People love statistics. It would be tangible if you talk to people about what percentage of agricultural land planted to feed farm and diary animals or what percent of animal testing worked for humans in fact. It is effective to say that a century ago some rights which were deemed impossible, we have today, and that it is possible to turn into a vegan world, perhaps inevitably.

N. Eyck: Thank you so much for this interview!

Fragment on the importance of a council system approach in AR

Untapped Animal Rights expertise and Animal Rights as an immediate concern to human individuals

A fragment by Palang L. Arani-May. Download as a PDF.

We want and we need to empower people in terms of thinking and speaking about their positive relations to the ‘nonhuman animal world’, and our broad goal is to include a rights language for nonhumans into our democratic political systems and into legislation.

I think we are moving too far in two different opposing extremes as what regards the message that we are bringing out to our newfound allies in AR, and that is also the message that will form a basis for Animal Rights politics in the future.

We express specific alert and we give answers:

  1. On one hand we hand out leaflets and make demos confronting people about issues in the way of showing our protest and raising awareness to those who are no yet much familiar with AR issues and concerns.
  2. On the other hand we lead (or some lead) a relatively detached expert-based approach to thinking about and discussing Animal Rights related issues.

Where does that leave the thinking individual who is starting to make AR a top subject for themselves?

We could say that’s their problem, they can either join a group to demo, donate, sign important petitions or become an expert and hold a talk / write a paper, or do both, or … ?

Inasmuch able to reflect on the rights of your nonhuman “next”, as about your own rights …

What I would hope to see is that we encourage others to understand that they are already able enough to phrase their own positive theses and opinions about AR. We all have a lifetime experience that we can draw upon, we can think, we can speak. We can transport our knowledge and thoughts about AR related issues to other people as a form of activism.

If we want to break the speciesist divides, we must overcome separating immediate human rights concerns from an immediate relation and understanding that anybody is inasmuch able to have about the rights of his – nonhuman – next.

To defend rights we have to postulate them. But we can only postulate and claim due rights (to live, to be free, to not be labelled as property, etc.), if we learn to stand for Animal Rights just like we stand for our own Human Rights.

People do have reasonable and common sense answers and solution for problems such as: whose life is “more important” in a specific situation where you have to decide about life and death (i.e. both lives are as important), or is something morally wrong or right, or how can we change difficult societal constellations, or how can we find new approaches to deep-rooted problems, etc, etc, etc.

I believe we need to create rather a councilsystem that enables and empowers, to increase the potentiality in society to thus create a healthy revolution with the goal of embedding Animal Rights and extending and readjusting our “own” ethics.

Image: Oil on canvas painting by Farangis Yegane.

Anastasia Yarbrough: White Supremacy and Patriarchy Hurt Animals

White Supremacy and Patriarchy Hurt Animals

Anastasia Yarbrough

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This talk is about the stories we tell about animal oppression. We as animal rights activists have an opportunity to tell deeper stories that don’t rely so much on tokenizing the struggles of people of color and women. Nor do they have to rely on tokenizing animals as romantic symbols of human identity. Instead, we can talk about animals’ struggles and lives, to the best of our knowledge, and reveal how they’re interconnected with different human groups’ struggles by telling the stories of the forces (and the identity groups behind the forces) that bind them all.

I. Who am I?

My name is Anastasia Yarbrough. I am facilitator consultant, musician, and community educator. I have been doing animal advocacy work for over 15 years, and most recently, in the last 5 years, I have been vocally and logistically active in the animal liberation movement. I used to serve on the board of Institute for Critical Animal Studies, and I currently am on the advisory board for Food Empowerment Project.
Acknowledgments
Breeze Harper for hosting this online conference. Adam Weitzenfeld and pattrice jones for being wonderful, inspiring scholar-activists who have also been attentive listeners with these issues I’ve been grappling with. And to all the activists out there who work for total liberation, even amidst the tremendous challenges.

II. Why talk about white supremacy and patriarchy specifically?

• These pervasive, intertwined forces serve as a major backbone to the Animal Rights Movement. The AR movement is concentrated in Eurocentric countries, and within these countries, the majority of the members are white, and the bulk of the leadership comprise of white men. As a result, the ideological basis for human-animal relations tends to be very Eurocentric and it’s not uncommon to see animal advocacy and vegan campaigns that promote a European ideal (i.e. campaigns against dog-eating in China). The eurocentrism makes it difficult for people who aren’t white to feel like they have a place in the movement, especially when they’re animal ethics don’t necessarily reflect the “mainstream.” And the influence of patriarchy becomes very obvious when the majority of the movement comprises of female activists but over 50% of the leadership in major, active animal advocacy nonprofits is male. When major events in the movement like the national conference don’t allow these issues to truly be addressed and are treated as trivial, not central to the strengthening of the movement, we have a problem.

• Great majority of AR organizations and leaders compare the modern AR movement to and use examples from anti-racist, anti-sexist movements of US history without an understanding of how racism and sexism operate in America, but rather just assuming they know because they’re activists for a similarly oppressed group (the diverse array of beings called “animals”).

o At the AR National Conference 2013 in Washington DC, Norm Phelps told participants in the opening plenary that AR activists are the Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman of our time. Nathan Runkle, at the same plenary, also said that the AR movement is the next evolutionary progression in the advancement for social justice; animal rights is the new major social justice movement.

• This heavy reliance on lessons from anti-racist and anti-sexist human rights struggles of the past is not a problem in and of itself. They are part of our heritage, and we can’t help but continue in their shadows. And the leaders from those movements are, after all, our ancestors and influential pioneers for social justice and environmental movements worldwide. But when leaders in the AR movement use lazy analyses to use them as leverage to further legitimize animal rights as a movement, it does not serve our movement and it misses the point. There’s a reason why the struggles of people of color, women, and animals look similar enough for comparison. That’s because they’re connected by systemic forces that fuel and maintain their oppression. Another speaker could do this analysis from any angle in the matrix. Today, I’m focusing on white supremacy and patriarchy.

III. How do white supremacy and patriarchy directly impact animals?

• Same forces, different groups

o White supremacy and patriarchy (what I will from now on refer to as “white patriarchy”) have been analyzed by critical race theorists and feminist theorists respectively for several decades in the United States. People of color have had to study whiteness and women have had to study patriarchy in order to survive. Whiteness and patriarchy are collectively understood to be social identity constructs reinforced structurally over time. That means, their initial creation were intentional and the people assumed the identities by choice. In the Anarchist Federation’s Women Caucus most recent anarchist analysis of privilege theory, they emphasized that identity groups like men and white people can’t actually give up their privilege no matter how much individuals from those groups want to. They’re born into those identities, raised in those identity groups, and are immersed in a system they cannot opt out of or choose to stop benefiting from. “You are not responsible for the system that gives you your privilege, only for how you respond to it.” Bell Hooks has often associated white patriarchy with acts of terrorism (i.e. slavery, rape, torture, and murder) against black people and black women, specifically. These acts of terrorism—slavery, rape, torture, and murder—are what we’re trying to abolish in the AR movement. It’s no surprise that they arise from the same system. How do we manage to live in society with all of this happening and be okay with it? Well, for one thing, white patriarchy doesn’t make itself visible. Like any social identity construct that maintains a social-economic system on the basis of exploiting more vulnerable individuals and communities, marginalizing those who interfere with the “mainstream” status quo, committing systematic violence for the benefit of privileged groups, and dominating the minds and bodies and space and reproduction of other groups, white patriarchy is an institution that manages to sustain all of this invisibly. We have to make a conscientious effort to make it visible. In the AR movement, when we talk about humans oppressing animals, we have opportunities to make visible the white supremacy and patriarchy behind the exploitation, the domination, the reproductive control, the marginalization, and the systematic killing. We can name the tokenizing of animals as mascots for their own exploitation and murder. We can call out shelter animal and feral animal killings as blaming the victim. We can talk about how wild animals are marginalized by habitat loss due to agriculture and urban development and “invasive/injurious” species become a convenient target for blame even though they’re not the primary cause. We can make visible the reproductive control, forced breeding, genetic manipulation, and rape that make institutions like laboratory research on animals, animal agriculture, pet-keeping, zoos and aquaria, hunting ranches, aquaculture, and animal entertainment industries go round. Tokenizing, blaming the victim, marginalization, and reproductive control are key tenets of white patriarchy. Under white supremacy in America, the mainstream tends to identify with animals and people of color once they’re dead or reduced into obscurity. This gives the illusion that we’re actually respecting these groups by romanticizing them and reshaping who they are in our imaginations for our own identities, now that our ancestors and contemporaries have removed them as a threat. But a major tenet of white patriarchy is the issue of citizenship. The only legitimate voices are those who are “true citizens” of the group. And in the AR movement, that is a huge obstacle in getting animals’ interests taken seriously.

• White patriarchy driving animal advocacy campaigns

o PETA campaigns are infamous for their racist and sexist campaigns. For that reason, I won’t go into too much detail with them here as another speaker in this conference will be offering an analysis of PETA. PETA, though, is an obvious example of white patriarchy driving its goals and strategies. Not just in the organization’s publicity stunts but also in their policies and practices involving animals directly. PETA has a track-record of killing more rescued dogs and cats than they place into homes. Nathan Winograd has been challenging PETA for years over their animal sheltering policies and practices. PETA sympathizers have retorted that what’s not mentioned in Winograd’s arguments are the animals who are adopted out and the dangers of overcrowding in shelters, that it’s better for animals to die a “merciful” death than to live a life in a shelter or worse, homeless. However, what this says to me is that for PETA the best kind of ethical relationship we can hope for with animals under PETA policy are with those who are dead because there isn’t enough capacity to hold them all under complete institutional control and it’s more efficient to kill them and congratulate ourselves on doing the right thing because we know what’s best. This is white patriarchy.

o Undercover investigations have been the primary tactic for exposing some of the worst offenses against animals. What often is not emphasized in undercover investigations of factory farm abuses or campaigns against dog-fighting or cock-fighting or exposés of illegal wildlife trafficking are the racialized components of these atrocities. The vast majority of the people who are doing the dirty work that gets plastered all over the news and bears the brunt of scorn and outrage from activists are people of color.

 Migrant workers from countries like Mexico and Guatemala comprise 1/5th of the agricultural workforce industry. They typically don’t have a high school diploma, so their options for work are slim, and they usually have very little say in the operations of these farms. They are just hands—often bloody hands—working 10-12 hour shifts. US imperialism and racism push them into jobs like this where options for livelihood are very few. They are more likely to be punished for animal cruelty than the operators of the farm who make the real profit. And animal advocacy organizations know this when they press charges; they’re just trying to take whatever “victory” they can get. In the end, this doesn’t help present or future animals because it allows corporations and their shareholders to avoid responsibility, it allows business owners to scapegoat impoverished and illiterate migrant workers who have very little legal protection, and it sends a misleading message to the public that the “bad guys” have been dealt with when in actuality they’ll just be replaced by another immigrant of similar standing who eventually loses his mind with the violence he must perform daily for several hours.

 Dogfighting is as old as civilization itself. And cockfighting started to appear in Europe around the 1400s. Both of these blood sports were primarily the activity of wealthy landowners, merchants, and aristocrats—in other words, people with money. Nowadays, these blood sports are associated with poor people of color. So campaigns against these vicious customs tend to look like white people chastising people of color, now that middle/upper-class white people are culturally “removed” from such barbarism.

 Illegal wildlife trafficking is an issue pervasive not just in animal advocacy but in environmental conservation as well. Campaigns and reports emphasize the illegal portion of wildlife trafficking so that they can invoke CITES and have some legal, policy weight, but that hasn’t made a big difference so far in the number of animals, alive and dead, being trafficked out of their native lands and waters. The regions where the bulk of this activity happens are southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. News media, documentaries, and campaigns tend to focus heavily on the “poaching” side of wildlife trafficking, which is exclusively poor people of color these regions. Though the business of wildlife trafficking will be part of a big crime syndicate, the people who are splattered in imagery and news articles are those with fewer resources and less leverage in the overall syndicate—people who are easy to replace, easy to scapegoat. It’s harder to make the wealthy consumers of wildlife products visible, it’s harder to challenge the rich, privately owned hunting ranches that profit in the business of “exotic” animal trafficking, it’s harder to target American and European private investors of militias and crime syndicates in these regions—so nobody really does. Because it’s easier to target poor people of color committing the actual violence and the actual crimes, they are the poster criminals, and white supremacy and colonialism can continue to go unchecked, unnoticed in its maintenance of this system.

o Racism, classism, and colonialism drive people of color to overly depend on the exploitation of animals, and because they don’t have the protection of wealth and whiteness, these people bear the brunt of the consequences, while the heavy enablers can continue business as usual.

IV. Racism & Speciesism: Are they interchangeable?

• Race and species are arbitrary distinctions that arose around the same time in European thought. They are both driven by phenotypic differences but carry the weight and legitimacy as though they are biologically rooted, and biological is often associated with “fixed.” In biology, the biological species definition is considered the ultimate species definition. If groups are shown to have individuals producing reproductively viable offspring, then they are truly a species. More often than not, this primary definition is too difficult to test in the field or in the lab, so other definitions based on morphological and phylogenetic differences between groups are considered an acceptable substitution. But what the morphological and phylogenetic species definitions do is make the labeling of species just as arbitrary as race theory. For both, it basically comes down to: if you look a little different, do things a little differently, vary somewhat genetically, and even live in a different region from the basis of comparison, that’s good enough to label your group a distinct species (and historically, race and species have been used interchangeably) until some other “expert” comes along and says otherwise.

• In my experience, what we as AR activists often label as speciesism tends to be racism, sexism, and ableism against animals. Animal agriculture, aquaculture, laboratory research on animals, pet-keeping, and even commercial and recreational hunting rely on the oppression of specific species for the benefit of certain human groups. But the arguments used to keep them in oppression are not so much speciesist as they are racist, sexist, and/or ableist. While dogs are targeted as a species of commercial breeding, it’s the races of dogs (otherwise called “breeds”) that are used as justification and incentive to continue selective breeding and reproductive control of dogs. And it’s the races that rig a dog slated for execution in certain counties just by being born to that race. Ecofeminist animal rights activists have pointed out for years that sexism is a major force driving the oppression of animals in agricultural industries, particularly dairy and egg where they would not exist without exploiting female labor. And even animal rights activists play into the traps of ableism, emphasizing the social-cognitive abilities of animals in a desperate attempt to get people to care about animals. Abilities of animal individuals and species may perhaps be the ground for which we justify how we treat animals. Once we activists are able to recognize them when they appear, it becomes easier to see what we’re really working with.

V. Conclusion

• Making white supremacy and patriarchy visible is very important to making animal oppression visible. They are often behind the atrocities against animals we’re struggling against.

• White supremacy and patriarchy affect the goals of the movement and the strategies employed. We can evaluate how our goals and strategies are carried along and By practicing an intention to make these forces visible, recognize what’s actually happening acknowledge our role in them all, we can take responsibility for the direction of .

• As other activists incorporate analyses of ablism, heterosexism, cissexism, and queerness, we have an opportunity for animal rights to become a genuine frontier intersectional movement. Are we up for the challenge?

More examples of white patriarchy:

• “I just installed a nose plate…so that he wouldn’t be nursing on his mom. He doesn’t need to anymore…He’ll get used to it. We’ve done it to other calves. And there’s little spikes on that plate, and that’s to irritate the cows udder if he tries to nurse and she’ll kick him away…Anyway, another fun thing to do on the farm.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOMYfrFKHyE&feature=youtu.be