A socially just sociology means implying antidiscriminatory animal sociology. The levels of interaction between all subjects and all varying subjectivity need to be focused.
Those most visible of today’s animal allies (the animal rights and animal liberation movement) are equally unwilling to abstract from the biologism they apply to their perspectives on animality in a seemingly unquestioned manner, not different to any perspectival view on animality expressed in the conventional foundations of “human” hybris.
They equally limit their view to the equation: human > reason; animal > instinct. The paradigm-shifts in concepts of culture, languages, and sociability/socialness themselves haven’t taken place in human emancipation yet, to extend to nonhuman groups and individuals. Manifoldness and heterogeneity do not appear on the human map, outside of hierarchical hegemonic ideas of life and living beings in general.
Argumentation routinely lays a burden of proof in a comparability of nonhumans to humans, as if a.) some unique standard of measurement always had to be taken, and b.) as if “human” could be grasped as a single monolith, when in comparison to “nonhuman”.
antibiologistic animal sociology
We need a term that describes the broad discrimination/s or injustice/s exerted by human collectives and human individuals towards nonhumans animals and towards nonhumanity overall – in all its facets in which these oppressive mechanisms, thoughts and actions occur in different human cultural layers, such as religion, science, law, arts, etc.
Also, we need a term for the overall phenomenon of human destruction and destructivity in these regards. I refer to it as faunacide, as far as nonhuman animals are concerned. Some criticize the term “speciesism” on various grounds, I ask everyone to come up with more descriptive terms for what we witness and might conceive differently.
antibiologistic animal sociology
Alternative terms for speciesism
antibiologistic animal sociology
Female-identified human individuals and speciesism, species-derogation, -negation -annihilation or the overlooked problem of “women” and anthropocentric-collectivist speciesism
A.) I set forth following anchor points, before I start on the topic:
- We can ask if the interpretations of the characteristics, that are considered to make up the marking dividers within a human-animal hierarchy, are in reality a negation of the autonomous value of otherness in nonhuman animals.
- We know that the single criterion [against which we measure anything nonhuman animals do] that serves as our standard, is the human parameter, i.e. the human model counts as the ideal, as the standard, for creating norms. So what happens if we put this standard of measurement into doubt?
- Biology has already determined what the identity of nonhuman animals is, and even the Animal Rights movement has satisfied itself with placing the moral question somewhere out of reach by accepting the explanation of the identity of animals as something strictly biological.
(Full text: http://www.simorgh.de/objects/what-is-an-animal/)
The image is severely speciesist. It’s not fathomable why some feminists make that comparison between the “treatment” or I guess rather the objectification of women in advertisement etc. with “meat”? There is obviously an perverted aesthetical connection thought by speciesist rhetorics, but it leads us into a direction which should be further looked at and not just taken by the superficial “meaning” of such iconography.
“Meat” is a solely speciesist problem, unless we would speak of necrophilia and cannibalism.
B.) Feminism and Animal Rights: the one way or the other
“Meat” is not porn and it’s not sexist per se, it is porn insofar and forms of zoophilia are involved, direct or indirect, and sexist where sexism is directly applied to the nonhuman animal individuals or groups themselves. Speaking of porn and sexism here as a proxy covers up how those affect nonhumans directly.
“Meat” is flesh, and it’s the result of a human/humans killing a nonhuman animal/animals.
We should be careful with attaching own sociological issues to such a major own concerns such as Animal Rights in an analogy, which sets itself so close to the subject of comparison, that the story lapses and gets one-sided and a new and important perspective gets neglected instantaneously.
All Animal Rights issues need an own valid terminology and frames of reference, otherwise we are risking to blur the lines of differentiation.
The analogy of sexism and speciesism fails when applied superficially and in an undifferentiated way also because…:
Two main points why Animal Rights issues can’t be tied to a strict feminist viewpoint, as long as feminism is used as excusing women from the ethical responsibilities in society towards their nonhuman environment.
- It’s wrong to presuppose that speciesism is something that is more prevalent in male-identified human individuals compared to female-identified human individuals.
- Also, male nonhuman animals are inasmuch sexually abused, e.g. in the farm industry (their reproductive system) such as female nonhuman animals are.
The sociological dynamics of gender in their effect of speciesist attitudes and actions should be addressed of course, but there is no reason inherent to “biological” gender (if we would go that path) that would prove that “men” or categorically more speciesist than “women”. Also the way in which roleplay is happening in systems of oppression should be addressed, i.e. “women” taking the role of cooks, or preparing the speciesist meals, of wearing feathers and fur, etc. male roles, roles that are swapped, (I am not extending on this here).
C.) Close analogies … also of genocides and speciecides and their deficits
These types of close analogies in the field of -isms and abuse work in a valid way when we look at the psychology of the perpetrator who seeks to create a victim: the aspect of exerted violence shares many similarities, whereas however on the side of the victimized we have to see the contexts: political, enviro-political, historical, sociological, … a group or an individual gets picked as a victim for reasons, and those exact reasons need to be analyzed under own terms, and not be conflated. In terms of speciesism, we face many forms of speciesism (i.e. religious, scientific, legal, philosophical, etc.).
D.) Feminism, Speciesism, Anthropocentrism
Random examples of female rhetorics of speciesism:
- objectification of beings oppressed, animalesque figures made with wool / felt; https://web.archive.org/web/20160323101532/https://www.stephaniemetz.com/portfolioOverbredAnimals.html
- helplessness and helping as an act of public viewing, http://kathyhigh.com/project-embracing-animal.html
- the daily randomness of the gender / nonhuman animal speciesist contexts, women taking/being part, http://huzzahvintage.blogspot.com/2010/10/you-decide.html
- female-identified fans, adherents, students of Hermann Nitsch for example
- female speciesist artists in general, random examples with critical comments:
Is a self-critical view on gender / being a woman / feminism necessary?
What would speak against it? We know that in our daily lives we, as “women”, make decisions that touch on core grounds that turn the private/the personal into the political (https://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/pisp.html). As antispeciesists we know with our vegan praxis just how impactful our personal choices are, and as social beings we also know how hard it can be for us to draw a line between the social expectations that one tries to fit in (in order to find a job, to be liked or accepted, to keep ones social ties or family structures/felt obligations together, and so forth) and our political ideals and ethical, pressing necessities when both might stand in conflict with each other in times of societal change. Our human social environment might be heavily speciesist and we have to get along with it, somehow yet still inspire change, for instance.
Speciesism, as remote as it seems, is to be found at the same point where my-choice-to-decide-otherwise-or-not crosses just any implications of socialization that I feel are ethically unjustifiable. When I rant against sexism I might as well rant against an injustice that targets nonhumans, if I am a vegan anti-speciesist minded person.
Speciesism can be understood to work socially as an ideology, where people who are convinced of their degrading stance, believe in a collectively held fiction that is assumed and agreed upon as “objectivity”, so that no rebuttal can take place on “rational grounds”.
Women do feel at home in this construct inasmuch as men do, on the large scale. Both 50 percent of humanity, male and female, believe so much in human superiority that they are willing to constitute part of a speciesist society by fulfilling their individual part in the fiction.
“Gender” defines itself from interaction within a group or society. Being oppressed as a woman doesn’t automatically mean that you can’t be oppressive towards nonhuman animals. Drawing an analogy between sexism (or genderism) and speciesism does not take account of the different reasons and histories why the victim gets oppressed in the first place – for what ends, and how exactly. If we turn a blind eye on the gender specific functions of speciesism and anthropocentrism we might risk a loophole in our argumentation for our own rights defending nonhumans and for integral Animal Rights themselves.
Speciesism is a unique tragedy. The history of being classified as “animals” by humans, with all that entailed, as beings whose existence had been on earth eons before humans evolved, can’t be compared to any other form of oppression by a strict analogy. Being objectified as solely “animate”, being slaughterable, edible, huntable, vivisectable, being objectifiable and judged as “definable”, in the first place constitutes a specific situation for the affected subject, and hints at a unique technique of injustice taking place here on behalf of the oppressive side that is being applied to this particular victimized group.
Comparisons between different forms of oppression are extensively helpless efforts when oppressor and oppressed are as entangled as in the case of speciesist human oppressive settings.
We could straightforwardly name that natural sciences, religion, philosophy, mass society have to end classifying the beings we call “nonhuman animals”, or we stay stuck in our psychological accompliceship with the very hierarchical and oppressive systems that we criticize so vehemently as what regards our own pains.
I don’t see an alternative as of yet. The ecofeminist and feminist discourse in Animal Rights and Animal Liberation (Karen Davis, Marti Kheel, Lori Gruen, Carol J. Adams, Kim Socha, Vasile Stanescu and so forth) is pluralistic enough to lead and continue their differentiated discourse I believe and I thank them for doing so.
Farangis G. Yegane. Panting: Torsi, Drawing: Werkzyklus Krone der Schöpfung, http://crownofthecreation.farangis.de/
All links accessed 28.10.2018.
Anything you think is reasonable to do for Animal-, Earth-and Human Rights is effective activism. Liberation work functions in all layers on all levels – also because that’s how dense oppressive structures and systems work. Uprooting deeply engrained injustices makes your individual power necessary all around.
Gruppe Messel, Tierautonomie / Animal Autonomy
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
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).
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.
Dear fellow AR activist,
I personally don’t know where even any total liberation activists stand in detail. Of course it’s decisively crucial that the interest in nonhuman-related-ethical-issues is continuously gaining momentum, and every event (or activity, or even thought) that is taking place to grow this momentum is an active expression of an overall ethical development evoluting in our societies. I believe in such developments, and I believe they are driven by many different forces and factors.
I am however generally suspicious of the internal structures of movements, for as long as an idea hasn’t taken ground and formed solidly enough in a society for it to be expressed pluralistically enough, so that you can argue with a full spectra of positions.
The canon of Animal Liberation or AR has strong tendencies to be unisono, and I blame that on the movements inner dynamics. And it is this narrowness within the movement why I always try to double check what exactly is being practised and promoted beyond the bigger messages of any strongly idealistic event.
With total liberation events so far nothing seems transparent to me, structurally more than from the given goals and intentions.
I for myself prefer solutions to be less “total” and more sticking to the realities of the details.
Just another fellow AR activist
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:
- 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.
- 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.
White Supremacy and Patriarchy Hurt Animals
This text as a PDF (Link opens in a new window)
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.
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.
• 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.”