nonhuman animal advocacy

LOVE: Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation

I'm really excited about Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation, or LOVE, a collective of anti-speciesist, anti-oppression vegan advocates who just launched a brand new website (lovingallbeings.org) and vegan blog. In addition to the name LOVE, which brilliantly emphasizes what is positive about anti-violence and anti-oppression advocacy work, the collective is summed up nicely in its "L.O.V.E. FAQ":

The Argument that Marginalizes

A common argument made by philosophical theorists who write about other animals is the so-called "argument from marginal cases." The argument is used in an attempt to show that other animals are either deserving or undeserving of moral status. In terms of classification, the "argument from marginal cases" holds that a human animal is still a human even if they don't meet all the characteristics that are associated with humanness. That is, a human infant or mentally disabled human (the two most commonly discussed "marginal cases") may not meet the characteristics of rationality and intelligence associated with humanness, but they are both still humans. However, since these humans meet a lower standard or limited quality of humanness, they are considered "marginal cases." (Read more...)

Moving From Abstraction to Veganism: Advocating Alternatives to Exploitation, Not Alternative Exploitation

One of the biggest myths used to drum up support for advocating new methods for exploiting other animals is that new exploitation methods will reduce the suffering of other animals living right now. This myth is based on the abstraction of helping "existing" nonhuman animals. This is an abstraction because those other animals being exploited right now will not actually exist by the time any changeover to the new method of exploitation is instituted. (Read more...)

Oppression in the Background

On sunday, brownfemipower made a very insightful comment on the Vegans of Color blog. In her comment, BFP makes two major points: 1) there is no shortage of insensitivity in our society towards the oppression of people of color; and 2) exposure to extremely violent images of others being oppressed does not translate into respect for those who are being oppressed. These are both important points that deserve further consideration by vegans and other nonhuman animal advocates.

Animal Rights and the Humane Treatment Principle

Gary L. Francione's theory of nonhuman animal rights, or "the rights position," is based on the "humane treatment principle," in combination with the "principle of equal consideration." The humane-treatment principle is, according to Francione, the moral principle that it is wrong to impose unnecessary suffering on other animals. (Read More...)

Veganism: Not to be Confused with Animal Rights

Veganism is based on the vegan ideal of nonexploitation. Vegan theory and practice follows from this principle that we should not exploit others. In "Veganism Defined," a 1951 statement to "clarify the goal towards which the movement aspires," vegan movement co-founder Leslie Cross explains:

The effect of this development is to make veganism unique among movements concerned with animal welfare. For it has crystallised as a whole and not, as are all other such movements, as an abstraction. Where every other movement deals with a segment – and therefore deals directly with practices rather than with principles – veganism is itself a principle, from which certain practices logically flow.

If, for example, the vegan principle is applied to diet, it can at once be seen why it must be vegetarian in the strictest sense and why it cannot contain any foods derived from animals. One may become a vegetarian for a variety of reasons – humanitarian, health, or mere preference for such a diet; The principle is a matter of personal feeling, and varies accordingly. Veganism, however, is a principle – that [humans have] no right to exploit creatures for [our] own ends – and no variation occurs.

In his three books, Animals, Property, and the Law, Rain without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement, and Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child Or the Dog?, Gary L. Francione lays out his theory of nonhuman animal rights. However, none of these books discuss veganism as a principle itself. Of these three book veganism is only mentioned once; relegating veganism to a footnote in Rain without Thunder, Francione simply stating: "Veganism is a diet that excludes all animal products, including eggs and dairy products."

Yet, in his most recent book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, Francione does discuss veganism. In the "Introduction," he states:

On the individual level, the rights position prescribes incremental change in the form of veganism. Veganism means not eating meat, dairy, eggs, honey, and other animal products, or wearing or using animal products or products tested on animals. Veganism, which results in a decreased demand for animal products, is much more than a matter of diet, lifestyle, or consumer choice; it is a personal commitment to nonviolence and the abolition of exploitation.

Veganism is discussed at greater length in the chapter, "Reflections on Animals, Property, and the Law and Rain without Thunder," where Francione states that veganism "is a moral and political commitment to abolition on the individual level and extends not only to matters of food, but to clothing and other products."

So while in Rain without Thunder he wrote that veganism is "a diet," in his latest book Francione writes that veganism "is much more than a matter of diet" and that it "extends ... to clothing and other products." However, this is only a minor improvement, since Francione is still treating veganism as an individualized, (non)consumptive practice, which marginalizes veganism. That is, simply extending veganism from "a diet" (Rain without Thunder) to include "clothing and other products" (Animals as Persons) does not adequately describe veganism as a philosophy and way of life. As Leslie Cross made clear in "Veganism Defined," "veganism is itself a principle, from which certain practices logically flow" (emphasis in original). Instead of acknowledging that certain practices are what logically flows from the principle of veganism, Francione states that veganism means practice and replaces veganism as the reason for these practices with what he calls "the rights position."

Now this doesn't mean that veganism and the rights position cannot both logically lead to "not eating meat, dairy, eggs, honey, and other animal products, or wearing or using animal products or products tested on animals." In Rain without Thunder, and without the need to appropriate "veganism," Francione writes, "if animal rights means anything, it means that as a society and as individuals we can no longer countenance the institutionalized killing of animals for food, any more than we can justify performing experiments ourselves, or wearing clothing made from animal skins or pelts."

But as Cross said, "One may become a vegetarian for a variety of reasons," and this is also true when not using other animals extends to clothing and other products. However, the principles themselves, that is the reasons for not using other animals, are fundamentally different depending on whether we're discussing veganism or the rights position. Stated briefly, veganism is based on liberation and the vegan ideal of avoiding exploitation, and Francione's rights position is based on equality and the humane-treatment principle of avoiding unnecessary suffering. As I'll discuss at greater length in a future post, this contributes to two significantly different frameworks for nonhuman animal advocacy.

The Humane Myth Busters

Nonhuman animal advocacy means more than filling in the gaps in our knowledge about how other animals are exploited, it also requires us to address how a lack of knowledge is produced and sustained for the purpose of human supremacy and the exploitation of other animals. With the website HumaneMyth.org, James Laveck and Jenny Stein, co-founders of Tribe of Heart, are taking on the myth that the exploitation of other animals can be "humane."

Obscurantism: Animal Exploitation and the Epistemology of Ignorance

Vegan education is usually understood as addressing a gap in knowledge regarding the exploitation of other animals. Therefore, all that is required is to produce and distribute information about the exploitation of nonhuman animals in order to fill in these gaps. However, there is a problem with seeing this as the only form of ignorance.

Obscurantism is one of the ways a lack of knowledge is produced and sustained. In terms of nonhuman animals' exploitation, obscurantism is a deliberate opposition to our knowledge of the oppression of other animals. It is used as a strategy for sustaining the structure of human supremacy.

Solidarity with Other Animals

This past Labor Day, Animal Voices replayed an interview with Jason Hribal on how "Animals Are Part of the Working Class." Hribal offers a insightful analysis on the agency, labor, and resistance of other animals and a call for solidarity with them and recognition of their role in creating history. (Read more...)

Speak Out!

In his article "Beyond Diversity," Paul Kivel writes, "The first step in diversity work is assessment—determining who has access to power and resources, who is safe and who isn't, who participates and who doesn't." As Kivel advises, we should begin by talking about "how we got to this point where diversity is an issue."

I believe the problem with the a many of the projects, campaigns, and policies I write about on this blog is the lack of any prior claim by oppressed people whose exploitation is being criticized. If, for instance, the oppression of people of color or transgrender people is considered from the start with their full participation then there really shouldn't be much need for criticism. (Read more...)