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 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.

Anti-Oppression and Law Enforcement

By way of Emily's The Partial Muse, I came across a comment Tim Wise left on Racialicious that backlashes against veganism. Wise's comment on Racialicious shows some confusion over anti-oppression work and law enforcement, not to mention a need to learn more about human supremacy and the oppression of nonhuman animals. (Read more...)

Why Veganism and Firebombs Don't Mix

In a recent post on her La Chola blog, brownfemipower uses her experience and knowledge of feminism and other social justice movements to explain "why fire bombing will not work." She touches on many of the reasons I don't support the firebombing in particular, and the ALF in general.

Like bfp, I believe that what is needed is cultural and social change, and I agree that this requires a mass movement.

Breeze Harper on Speciesism and Racism

Please listen to Breeze Harper's new podcast on the intersections of racism and speciesism. Breeze reads from "Speciesism: Why We Cannot Fully Eradicate it if We are Unmindful of its Contingency Upon Racism, Racialization, and Normalization of 'Whiteness,'" a chapter she wrote for a new anthology that will be out soon.

Breeze discusses how in the media, "White male youths who kill 'game' animals are heroes. Black male youths who kill a puppy or engage in dogfighting are the anti-hero." She goes on to encourage us to think critically about why that is:

Backlash and Name Calling

Some activists and organizations co-opting "vegan" use a number of misrepresentations in the form of labels, stereotypes, mockery, and caricatures against those who resist the co-option of veganism. An example is VO, an organization that favors two pejorative misrepresentations of vegans: "symbolic vegan" and "vegan police." Both of these labels are examples of a backlash against veganism by an organization explicitly attempting to co-opt the vegan movement.

Co-opting 'Vegan'

This revisionist approach is used by organizations and activists working, both covertly and overtly, to co-opt veganism and redefine it in accordance with Singer's implicit claim that veganism is unreasonable and indefensible. Attention is restricted to the "worst abuses" and specific "horrors" at the expense of challenging the structure of human supremacy and the ideology that supports it. (Read more...)

Veganism and Backlash

As long as human supremacy exists, veganism will engender backlash. Veganism puts pressure on the system of human supremacy, and backlash represents speciesist resistance to loss of privilege and human supremacy.

I'm sure most of us vegans experience some form of backlash on a regular basis. And backlash can take any number of forms – from labels, stereotypes, and mockery to outright verbal and physical abuse. (Read more...)

Challenging the Structure of Nonhuman Oppression

Oppression exists when one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another social group for its own benefit. Social oppression is distinct from situation of simple brute force in that it is an interlocking system that involves ideological control as well as domination and control of the social institutions and resources of the society, resulting in a condition of privilege for the agent group relative to the disenfranchisement and exploitation of the target group. – Rita Hardiman and Bailey W. Jackson, "Conceptual Foundations for Social Justice Courses"

The same sort of oppressive dynamic is behind human supremacy and the oppression of other animals. (Read more...)

Speciesism: It's Only Human

As humans in a human-supremacist society we're all privileged and socialized by those aspects of society that attribute value to humans and humanness and devalue nonhuman animals. We're all privileged by the systemic, institutional, and individual practices that exploit nonhuman animals. This is speciesism, and we're all speciesists. (Read more...)