Animal Protection and White Supremacy

Maybe you've heard about Brigitte Bardot's anti-Muslims comments? People are debating whether the comments are racist, or sincerely based on animal protection. And there's some justified anger on the Vegans of Color blog.

I think the comments fall into what Edward Said calls "the Orienalist description of the Islamic world." In "Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy" from Color of Violence (South End Press, 2005), Andrea Smith explains that, "The logic of Orientalism marks certain peoples or nations as inferior and as posing a constant threat to the well-being of empire," and, I would add, the nation-state. So the comments are definitely racist in that they up hold the Orientalist pillar of white supremacy described by Smith.

What about Bardot's calls for animal protection? The comments are also protectionist. Bardot's animal protectionism is part and parcel of her Orientalism/nationalism. Bardot victimizes and exploits the slaughter of animals for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha for her own personal political activity of Orientalism/nationalism.

Bardot says Muslims are "destroying our country by imposing their ways," and she's "tired of being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts." In other words, it is not actually the slaughter of animals for Eid al-Adha that Bardot is really concerned about. She opposes Eid al-Adha because to her it is threat to the nation-state.

Nationalism like this is a common theme of protectionism and its victimization of nonhuman animals. The same sort of rhetoric is used in the campaigns addressing cat and dog fur from China, the slaughter of horses in the North America for Western Europe (by French and U.S. protectionists), and kosher slaughter. In each case nonhumans are victimized and exploited by protectionism. Their exploitation is deemed an issue in terms of a threat to the nation-state. Thus legislation is passed in Western Europe and North America to protect the nation-states from an "invasion" of cat and dog fur from China.

The "protection" of other animals is simply instrumental to an Orientalist/nationalist system. In no way is the structure of the oppression of these animals being addressed. The protectionist takes the viewpoint of the oppressor and negotiates for an assumed acceptable, "civilized" form of oppression. Muslims (labeled as "barbaric") are expected to submit to the Western (assumed "civilized") stunning method of slaughter. The white supremacist subtext is that Muslims must abandon their assumed inferior culture and adopt the assumed superior culture of the nation-state.