nonhuman animal advocacy

10,000 for Western Imperialism

Westerners may have physically left their old colonies in Africa and Asia, but they retained them not only as markets but as locales on the ideological map over which they continue to rule morally and intellectually. – Edward Said

On September 3, In Defense of Animals launched an online petition with the aim of gathering 10,000 signatures from people pledging to support a total boycott of the entire country of Korea and all its products until Korea's Animal Protection Law is amended to strengthen the ban on the consumption of dogs and cats. Currently the petition has over 9,000 signatures and is likely to surpass its goal by its seventh day.

In his book Yellow, Frank Wu recommends Asian Americans who are asked "Do Asians eat dogs?" to respond with the question, "What is the point of asking whether I eat dogs?" Building on Wu's recommendation, we might ask, "What is the point of campaigning against dog-eating in Korea?" I'm convinced the answer is that campaigns targeting dog-eating as a cultural practice, including I.D.A.'s anti-Korea campaign, are based on a subtext of Western supremacy, Orientalism and imperialism, as well as speciesism.

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Opposing Sanism as a Rhetorical Tool

I believe we should strongly oppose using the phrase "moral schizophrenia" as a rhetorical tool for nonhuman animal advocacy. We should oppose this term as much as we would phrases like: "moral blackness," "moral gayness," "moral obesity," "moral poverty," "moral stupidity" or any other term that uses a group's identity, condition or experience as a means of conveying a message that something is — morally or otherwise — wrong or problematic.

Since first introducing the term in his book Introduction to Animal Rights, Gary Francione has popularized "moral schizophrenia" as a term used when discussing ethical contradictions with regard to nonhuman animals. Recently, Francione posted "A Note on Moral Schizophrenia" to clarify — or, rather, justify — his use of the term. In his post, Francione attempts to placate those of us who oppose the way this term targets people who are different mentally. (Read more...)

Soft-Headed and Hard-Hearted

I've seen a lot of people ask time and again how an organization like PETA can seriously think up and promote such oppressive campaigns as its recent fatphobic outdoor advertisement. In a word, one way of explaining PETA's desicion-making is: Groupthink.

"Groupthink" is a social-psychology concept Irving L. Janis developed to explain a defective process of group decision-making. Read more...

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.

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...)

Moving Beyond 'Yes on Prop 2'

California's Proposition 2, titled the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, frames an agenda around the assumption that so-called "farm animals" (specifically three subgroups of pigs, calves, and hens) are inherently exploitable. Solely concerned with the "prevention of cruelty," this framework not only takes eliminating the exploitation of other animals off the agenda, it intentionally blocks abolition from coming anywhere near the agenda.

This "anti-cruelty" approach is extremely successful at one thing: making us forget and preventing us from understanding how all forms of exploitation are wrong and oppressive. (Read more...)