Additions to ‘From Animals to Anarchism’
|January 4, 2015||Posted by under Uncategorized|
(See also comments section for a further response from another of the authors.)
Some of the following points are put forward as a response to questions raised in a review by Paul Gravett.i
It is possibly best to start by saying that the zine was originally conceived as a direct response to Gelderloos and others who had criticised veganism from their anarchist perspective. However, it became clear that there was little value in merely addressing each point they made, as their arguments were rarely substantive (see Werkheiserii). So it seemed more beneficial to set out a justification for veganism from an anarchist perspective, countering the main points of their claims and giving food for thought for anarchists and vegans alike, but also to provide reference for those already identifying with these two groups.
It is difficult to see how an anarchist would accept the incarceration and exploitation of animals (p.24), unless they have fallen for the view that non-human animals as a group are distinct and lesser than humansiii. In this way people have chosen to focus on division, instead of similarity (footnote 35). A recent illustration of this point from an ‘anarchist’ perspective is where Strike magazine claim animals are ‘stupid’ because they ‘eat their own shit’ (see image 1). Such a ridiculous generalisation is barely worthy of a response, let alone the mention of a biological inclination to ‘eat their own shit’ because it inherently aids survival. This situation with Strike illustrates the point that animals are in the ‘moral basement’iv, where they can be utilised comparatively against any marginalised human group in order to denigrate. The same is true for denigrating an institution by using the status of animals, where the notion of animals as ‘lesser othersv’ is reinforced, and can then be used in situations against marginalised people, so here we identify a basic failure in the understanding of intersectionality amongst those anarchists.vi
My personal view is that it is not possible to be an anarchist and support the exploitation and domination of animals, but it is up to the readers of the zine to decide for themselves where they stand on that particular issue. This also goes for those who claim to be vegan but support or overlook the exploitation of people. The definition of veganism we used (page 16) implicitly supports the liberation of people from exploitative situations as people are animals too. Therefore, it could also be claimed, from the perspective we have taken, that it is not possible to be a ‘vegan’ fascist, though they adopt certain principles regarding non-human animals, they have their own ideas about how human society should be divided and ruled in a context that requires domination and exploitation that is inherently incompatible with a sound definition of veganism.vii
It can also be said that some campaigning groups do not necessarily fit easily into the model of welfare-rights-liberation, SHAC for example is one of them, but it is worth noting that whilst the organisation of SHAC UK was apparently hierarchical, SHAC USA was notviii. So it depends on the group and the people that want to associate with certain types of organising.
Other forms of social division including class are acknowledged (page 3), but due to space, and a reference section that allows for this considerationix, there is little discussion of this issue, though the relationship of non-human animals and class is a very interesting one, as mentioned for example in footnote 28.
The presence of groups such as Animals Firstx (or ‘non-human animals first’xi), only get a brief mention in footnote 16, again partly due to space, and partly because they don’t fit the position we are attempting to put forward, as they don’t utilise anarchist ideasxii. We could have explicitly mentioned these groups in the appendix where we talk about how some anarchists point the finger at groups within the ‘animal rights movement’xiii, without acknowledging the existence of more challenging anarchist positions within that same movement.
Some of the issues with groups such as Animals First (their desire to include ‘everyone’xiv and the stifling of dissent) is a reminder of the recent sagaxv at The Vegan Society where employees were arguing that some people promoting veganism were ‘extremists’ (see app 2.), because they took an ‘all or nothing’ approach to veganism. In reality, the ‘dissenters’ were merely consistent with a vegan position. The particularly liberal wing of animal rights, of which The Vegan Society is now a leading part, believe we should not criticise one another because it is divisive, and that we are ‘stronger together’. However, this is a typical ‘mainstream’ ploy, in this case used to silence the voices of those arguing against the watering down of the vegan definition, while they refuse to acknowledge they are seeking a definition better suited to their own political agenda. Of course, this is true of all politics, but what offends us here, is their pretence there isn’t a liberal agenda illuminated by their self-serving needs and shallow politics.
So, there is conflict where differing groups meet in the broader movement under the ‘animal rights umbrella’, on demonstrations, at gatherings, or fayres, and how we deal with that in a way that is consistent with anarchism is a pressing issue. For example, how do we respond to the presence of a UKIP representative giving a talk at a 2014 live exports demonstrationxvi, or indeed, any of the parties attempting to make political capital out of animal suffering. As anarchists it is not consistent to collaborate with that position, but if we do become involved, it should be to radicalise the politics within the group (page 6). Where it comes to marches and the like, it is an affront to have known racist, homophobic or sexist people present, even if they are not stating their views openly at that moment. At the end of the day they can be confrontedxvii, denied access, or we can choose not to protest with them, and form our own groups on explicit principles (for example adopting the hallmarks, page 9). But to ‘continue as normal’ is not a viable option as it is neither a situation that allies with oppressed groups or one that keeps people in the movement. You cannot claim inclusivity if the practice of who you include drives others away through their oppressive behaviour.
Though the ‘animal rights movement’ has issues with fascism, animal liberation from an anarchist position does not, so I don’t think it is necessarily a particularly useful furrow to plough within the constraints of a zine, where we have attempted to point out what makes sense to us, and limit that which does not. Though we may agree with some of the tactics used by some of the hierarchical groups, politically, it is nonsensical to suggest animals require greater priority, when we are seeking a politics that challenges to liberate all, and not merely the few, and this won’t be achieved by marginalising ourselves from the broader political struggles.
In terms of expanding discussion, it would have been interesting to talk more about the animal rights scene, and how people have been given / assumed positions of power. However, that would have required more space than we could allow. Also the section on purity (p.18) would have benefited from a comparison with mainstream ideology of the ‘ideal vegan’ where we are supposed to present a fictitious blend of character and appearance. This fits with criticism around ableism. The ‘mainstreaming’ groups generally want to prevent veganism from being brought into ‘disrepute’ from people that appear to exist outside of societal norms, which is a tactic that eschews diversity. I know for one, The Vegan Society are particularly concerned about the vegan ‘brand’ these days since their liberal turn, where they appear obsessed with mainstreamxviii acceptance (page 35).
ii Domination and Consumption: An Examination of Veganism, Anarchism, and Ecofeminism, Ian Werkheiser, 2013, http://phaenex.uwindsor.ca/ojs/leddy/index.php/phaenex/article/view/4091
iii We also need to be careful where we use the terms ‘non-human’ and ‘human animals’ in that we draw attention to our point, but are aware we are utilising this false dichotomy to do so.
iv Steve Best ‘Total Liberation’ speech at AR2013 in Luxembourg. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr7Ax_p7ocw
v For example, the statement ‘they were treated like animals’ is common, but why is it ok to treat animals like animals?
vi See for instance pattrice jones: http://jjhagen.squarespace.com/blog/2013/9/16/full-interview-with-pattrice-jones-of-vine-sanctuary.html and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOQYBDF51og
vii For instance, it is probably worth looking at the attitudes and activities of the founders of The Vegan Society to help us understand how they defined veganism. For example, the following interview with Donald Watson: http://www.vegansociety.com/sites/default/files/DW_Interview_2002_Unabridged_Transcript.pdf
viii See Harper and Crow: http://vimeo.com/76933433
ix Particularly ‘Making a Killing’ and ‘The Jungle’ see references in ‘from animals to anarchism’.
x Where people choose to place their time and effort is up to them, so people may concentrate their efforts on non-human animals, but that is no excuse to neglect or diminish the movement for human or earth liberation. The same goes for people who concentrate on human issues, where there is no reason to neglect animals, a vegan lifestyle can be incorporated, this is because as we argue they are related, so any liberation movement ought to involve, animals (non-human and human) and the environment.
xi http://nonhumansfirst.com/ The declaration is supported by 269 Life and Camille Marino amongst others.
xii There is conflict here on both sides, though we reject fascism in animal rights, it is also consistent to reject animal exploitation within the anarchist movement. Whilst we would not associate with fascists, we do however, often associate with animal exploiters as they are part of the present dominant ecocidal culture. See Lauren Gazzola ‘Faith, Radicalism, and Saying What We Mean’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKHQ8AdLdWk&feature=youtu.be
xiii Similar arguments can be made in regard to the human rights and earth ‘movements’.
xiv Though there are examples where they have thrown people out of their own group, which mocks the idea they are for everyone.
xv This is a reference to the ‘you don’t have to be vegan campaign’ (page 21) also Gary Francione’s commentary illustrates the point: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/moment-silence-donald-watson-founder-vegan-society/#.VJ1T8P-kABA and http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/vegan-society-decide/#.VJ1TgP-kABA
xvii A blog post about confronting fascism at the European AR gathering 2013.http://pantheresenragees.noblogs.org/post/2013/08/22/international-animal-rights-gathering/
xviii It is typical that the groups utilising the term ‘mainstream’ do not offer a critique of their own position. The Vegan Society which has its own Research Advisory Committee, including the Critical Animal Studies scholar Richard Twine as the current chair, has overlooked a critical evaluation of this exclusionary term.