September 2008

Ableist Ad Campaign

PETA, always the exploitative opportunist that it is, has a new anti-milk campaign titled "Got Autism" that, according to Autism Vox, is "providing misinformation about autism and oversimplifying what autism is, and what can be done to help a child."

Here's Random Radical's response to this ableist ad campaign:

"Got Autism?" Actually, yes, I do. And being vegan hasn't done anything about that.

According to Peta, though, not only do I have a "devastating disease," but it's caused by eating dairy products. Even though I'm vegan. And even though no one knows what causes autism. And even though the dietary theory they refer to is about reducing "symptoms," not preventing autism. And even though this theory advocates avoiding gluten (a wheat protein), as well as casein (a dairy protein).

The Green Party and Nonhuman Animals

Nonhuman animal advocacy has always been a part of Green Party platforms. However, this year the US Greens made an important change in the draft of the Green Party of the United States platform by moving the section concerning nonhuman animals from the ecology chapter of the platform to the social justice chapter, aptly reasoning:

The Section on Ethical Treatment of Animals is currently under Chapter III Ecological Sustainability. While there are many ecological repercussions caused by our treatment of animals, the Planks within this Section regarding the ethical treatment of animals are predominantly social justice issues.

The section concerning social justice and nonhuman animals reads:

Cruelty to animals is unnecessary and immoral. The mark of a humane and civilized society lies in how we treat the least protected among us. To extend rights to other sentient living beings is our responsibility and a mark of our place among all of nature. We call for an intelligent, compassionate approach to the treatment of all animals.

We reject the belief that our species is the center of the world, and that other life forms exist only for our use and enjoyment. Our species does not have the right to exploit and inflict violence on other animals simply because we have the desire and power to do so. Our ethic upholds not only the value of biological diversity and the integrity and continuity of species, but also the value of individual lives and the interest of individual animals.

The Green Party advocates humane treatment of animals with the following policies:

1. Redirect the funds that are disbursed annually by the National Institutes of Health away from animal experiments and more towards direct health care, preventive medicine, and biomedical research using non-animal procedures such as clinical, epidemiological, and cell culture research. Any federal testing programs proposing animal tests must undergo a vigorous audit to assess their relevance and identify applicable non-animal testing strategies.

2. Phase-out the use of animals for consumer product testing, tobacco and alcohol testing, psychological testing, classroom demonstrations and dissections, weapons development and other military programs.

3. Mandate clear labeling of products to tell whether or not they have been tested on animals and if they contain any animal products or by-products.

4. Establish procedures to develop greater public scrutiny of all animal research. These should include the welfare of laboratory animals, including those currently excluded under the Animal Welfare Act, and a halt to wasteful public funding of unnecessary research such as duplicative experiments.

5. End the abuse of animals, including farm animals, and strengthen our enforcement of existing laws. This should include amending the Humane Slaughter Act to cover all animals slaughtered for agricultural purposes, including religious (ritual) slaughter practices.

6. Ban the use of goods produced from exotic or endangered animals.

7. Prohibit large scale commercial breeding facilities, such as "puppy mills," because of the massive suffering, overpopulation, and ill health such facilities produce.

8. Subsidize spay and neuter clinics to combat the ever-worsening pet overpopulation problem that results in the killing of millions of animals every year. Where unwanted companion animals are being killed in shelters, we advocate mandatory spay and neuter laws.

9. Ban the practice of "pound seizure" whereby shelters are permitted or required to surrender impounded animals to laboratories upon request. Prohibit Class B dealers from selling animals from random sources to research facilities.

10. Ban canned hunts. This should include prohibiting the importation of indigenous and non-native animals and the sale of animals from zoos and other commercial "entertainment" industries for the purpose of canned hunts.

11. Ban the exploitation of animals in entertainment, gambling, and sports.

I emphasized the second paragraph in the above excerpt because I think it speaks strongly against speciesism and human supremacy and for the vegan ideal. This strong anti-speciesist language, which is a carry over from the 2004 platform, was the basis of more vegan-oriented amendments to the platform. While not all of these amendments were incorporated into the proposed 2008 platform many where, such as removing pro-ranching language from the agricultural section of the ecology chapter. Unfortunately, the following amendment wasn't adapted to the agricultural section the platform:

In the interests of the environment, health and non-violence, we encourage individuals to adopt a vegetarian or strict vegetarian (vegan) lifestyle. We acknowledge that it is not possible to practice animal farming in an ethical way since the end result is to send animals to slaughter. Accordingly, we support a ban on all animal farming. Until we eliminate all animal farming, we support rapidly phasing out confined animal feeding operations.

The above emphasized portion notes the contradiction in the following, which it would have replaced: "Animal farming must be practiced in ethically and environmentally sustainable ways. We support a rapid phase out of confined animal feeding operations and factory farms."

However, the following was adapted in the agriculture section:

According to a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report, the livestock industry is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale." We call for the progressive elimination of federal and state-funded corporate subsidies to animal-based agricultural interests and the redirection of funds to plant-based practices that produce food for direct human consumption.

This is exactly why it is so important that nonhuman animal oppression is recognized as a social justice issue instead of an "ecological" one. Both the above proposed amendments call for a shift from animal-based agriculture to plant-based agriculture, yet the amendment addressing the speciesist roots of using animals didn't make it in to the draft, while the one concerning global warming (ecology) did. This is why I caution against overemphasizing global warming in the absence of a strong anti-speciesist position.

The Need to Address Classism at Conferences, Seminars, and Festivals

I know a lot of people get excited about conferences, seminars, and festivals organized around vegetarianism and/or nonhuman animal advocacy. I wish I could get as excited about these events, but I tend to be put off by the ever present class privilege that is built into the vast majority of them. (Read more...)

Nonhuman Animals and Colonialism

I watched Nature's Africa series over the last couple weeks. What interested me in the series was the promise of showing Africa through the eyes of the people who actually live there. In this way, the series consists of eight episodes with each episode covering a different geographical region of Africa through the personal stories of a couple different individuals in each region. While the first seven episodes focused exclusively on the stories of Africans, there was a sudden change up in the first part of the second half of episode eight.

The Assimilationist Appropriation of 'Liberation'

Debates between the movements doing nonhuman animal advocacy often revolve around "welfare" and "rights." (I say "movements" because there are many different ideologies driving several divergent social movements.) I'm increasingly less interested in the welfare-rights debate. I think both welfare and rights are limited, although the former is more conservative than the latter.

One of the things I'm very interested in communicating with this blog is the difference between assimilation and liberation, and where veganism fits in.

Racism on Animal Planet

I come across an interesting post from Fair Weather Vegan, via apoc of IllVox, discussing the racism of programs like Animal Planet's "Animal Precinct" and the colonialist gaze of its other "wildlife" programing:

All the 'Animal Cop'-style programs present owners who are mostly poor, and many of them are black or Hispanic, and this is never addressed or considered as a possible mitigating factor, or as some sort of structural problem which might be ameliorated in order to help the treatment of animals. The problem is presented as one of individual pathology, no matter what the situation. Needless to say almost all the ASPCA officers and vets portrayed, the population of professionals which 'deal with' these personal responsibility lapses, are white. The one exception is Detroit, and although some of the officers and staff are black, an even larger percentage of the offender population is also black and receives the same type of narrative treatment (They shoot dogs! Those barbarians!). The issue only gets more stark as Animal Planet films internationally, where one would think it would be difficult to avoid some sort of diversity. Yet there is not a single one of its international wildlife shows, that I know of, that focuses on a protagonist of color. Be s/he scientist, preservationist, vet, or volunteer, s/he is almost always a young, conventionally attractive white person, except in rare cases when she is an eccentric older white living in Africa, or, more rarely, South America or Asia. The message is always the same: whites save animals. Natives threaten animals, or at the very most provide manual labor for whites in their efforts to save animals. The network is particularly tone-deaf in the matter of Chimp Eden, which is set in South Africa for heaven's sake, and yet the sanctuary staff's racial makeup or history is not considered worth noting.

PETA = Indefensible

I really do wish people who apologize for PETA would wake up to the fact that PETA is an oppressive organization. As I've posted in the past, PETA helped lead the Non-Profit Industrial Complex takeover of nonhuman animal advocacy, works with the far-right, promotes militarism, colonization, and occupation, and appropriates "vegan" for White supremacy and a neo-liberal agenda.

This is a Vegan Issue

On Feministe, Latoya Peterson wrote an inspired post about feminism in the context of other issues and intersectional oppressions. She also talks about running an anti-racist blog in the same context.

When Latoya writes, "I don't think there is any kind of shit that pisses me off more than 'Is this really a feminist issue?'" you could replace "feminism" with "veganism" and that is exactly how I feel. In fact, I'd say that everything Latoya wrote about feminism and anti-racism applies to veganism. (Read more...)

'Low, Dishonourable and Cowardly'

For three years I worked at a national nonhuman animal advocacy organization that was campaigning to end the aerial massacring of wolves in Alaska. This is just one of the Alaskan government's many campaigns to control, manage, or eliminate native nonhuman animals. As the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has the power to end these violent programs. As governor, Palin is actively supporting and promoting these violent programs. So I think it is significant that the acceptance speech Palin gave last night at the Republican National Convention was written by former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully. (Read more...)

Feminism Beyond Transphobia

I no longer feel that continued education about trans issues within women's communities would change their oppressive behaviors in any significant degree, unless they are actually willing to change. It is not the lack of knowledge or information that keeps oppression going; it is the lack of feminist compassion, conscience and principle that is. -Emi Koyama, "Whose Feminism is it Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of the Trans Inclusion Debate"

When it comes to asking, "What are we going to do about transphobia among feminist-vegetarians/ecofeminists?" Emi Koyama just about sums it up. These are people who currently dominate the feminist discourse on nonhuman animals; as authors, speakers (in some cases very well paid speakers), and academic they have a vested interest in continuing the status quo. (Read more...)