December 2008

Why Our Biographical Identity Matters

Our biographies matter. That is to say, our race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, cultural beliefs, gender, sex, sexuality, socioeconomic class, citizenship status, (dis)ability, and so forth all matter. The intersection of these biographical characteristics makes up our biographical identity, and our biographical identity matters because it not only gives description to who we are, but it also gives description to our relationships to others. (Read more...)

The Social Construction of Domestication

Most pets are classified as so-called "domesticated animals." The root term "domestic" comes from the Latin word for house. As such, it's no wonder that the "domestication" of other animals relates to the social construction of our inability to understand these other animals as capable of living independently of a human household. (Read more...)

Abduction and Pets

Pet ownership is based on human supremacy. While 90 percent of pet owners may consider their pets as members of their families, this is in spite of the fact that these pets are abductees from another species. Implicit in the inclusion of pets in a human family is an acceptance of human supremacy that rests on the belief that humans can take better care of the other animals we keep as pets than those other animals' own species can.

This relationship of human supremacy is reinforced by the emphasis placed on reproductive sterilization by many nonhuman animal advocates. The subtext of this sterilization is that other animals are incapable of caring for their young. Sterilization is presented as the solution that assumes the problem is "homeless pets." Here "homeless" means the lack of a human's home, which reinforces the belief that these other animals are incapable of caring for themselves. Thus "adoption" into a human household is seen as essential to welfare of these other animals.

"Adoption" is a problematic term that obscures human supremacy and the exploitation of other animals as pets. The relationship of pet owners to their pets is one of abduction, not adoption. All pets, whether bought from a pet store, breeder, rescues, shelter, or acquired as strays share a history of abduction that is rooted in consumption. Pet stores and breeders are the most obvious cases of abduction, and could hardly be described otherwise. Rescues and shelters are more likely to use the term "adoption," but pets obtained from these sources are also abductees forces to live as dependents in human households.

There are different types of "rescues," most, however, are breed specific and are often collaborative in the consumption/abduction process. Shelters tend to be less collaborative, but are no less complicit in the consumption/abduction process. As such, rescues tend to be more supportive of breeding while shelters tend to be more supportive of sterilization, yet both continue to see pets as commodities and seek to place these other animals in human homes.

The practice of killing pets in shelters is part of the process of consumption/abduction. After all, it is the "least adoptable" pets who are killed off to make room for the "most adoptable." What this denotes is a hierarchy that assigns value to other animals in the shelter system according to the dictates of consumption. This hierarchy is also reflected in the rescues that focus on maintaining the "breed," which is also based on consumptive standards.

Rather than seeing the human relationship to other animals kept as pets as based on human supremacy and exploitation, nearly all parties blame the pets' own reproduction and biology as the problem. Thus the discussion resolves around "responsible breeding" and having pets "spayed and neutered." The consumption/abduction of these other animals goes unquestioned. Instead, this consumption/abduction is portrayed as a positive relationship and an example of the moral status of other animals.

The Status of Pets

Pets are often (mis)used as the typical example of an assumed double standard when it comes to how humans treat other animals. The distinction between pets and other nonhuman animals is usually measured by the market size of the consumer pet industry.

An Equitable World for All: Veganism and Radical Simplicity

Veganism is based on an enlightened sense of the responsibility to other humans and animals ... who share this planet with us, as well as progressive outlook encouraging a healthy, fertile soil and plant kingdom, and a sensible and equitable use of the earth's materials.

Because there is a mutual relationship between inequity and exploitation, the vegan ideal of nonexploitation is only possible in an equitable world. The inequitable control of resources provides the means to exploit others. Thus equity works to prevent exploitation.

Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen

Oakland-based eco chef, food justice activist, and author, Bryant Terry works to move the intersections between poverty, structural racism, and food insecurity from the margins to the center of food justice activism to build a more just and sustainable food system. (Read more...)

The Weapons and Weapons Systems Used to Exploit Nonhuman Animals

If a weapon can be defined as an instrument or device of any kind used to injure, incapacitate, or kill another, then it is only correct that we also call an instrument or device of any kind used to exploit other animals a weapon as well. And if any integrated system for the control and operation of a specific type of weaponry is a weapons system, then a similar system of weapons used to exploit other animals is also a weapons system.

Dr. Guillotin's Reform

The guillotine is perhaps one of the most infamous weapons of capital punishment. It was the guillotine, after all, that became the symbol of France's Reign of Terror, from which the term "terrorism" came. As such, it seems hardly imaginable that the guillotine was thought up by a reformer who supposedly wanted to abolish the death penalty.

Cognitive Dissonance

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, cognitive dissonance is: "A condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between one's beliefs and one's actions, such as opposing the slaughter of animals and eating meat."

How to Prevent Social Change: Lesson 1. Limit Your Vision

If we want to prevent the vegan ideal of nonexploitation from becoming generally adopted by society, then limiting our vision is one way to do that. And by far the most common way to limit our vision is take the "anti-cruelty" approach.

Over and over again, we are called on to limit our vision to "preventing cruelty" or "reducing suffering." (Read more...)