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A chain of events that has been linking up in my (small) brain in the last while regarding the animal rights movement has compelled me to finally sit down and write a little ditty here. It started with some discussion on this blog in various posts about the seal hunt, priorities of animal rights vs. human rights (as though they were exclusionary), and tactics employed by animal rights activists looking to forcibly end terror against non-human animals. Then there was the announcement last week by Morrissey that he would be boycotting Canada on his upcoming tour in protest of the Atlantic Seal Hunt, which sparked much discussion on some music news sites about his analogy to the Nazi holocaust. Then the booing and bashing of Pamela Anderson at the Junos for having the audacity to try and say something of any importance to other living beings while in front of a large national audience. It all culminated in my viewing the other night of a truly devastating – crippling, actually – documentary called Earthlings.
As has already been touched on by fellow film-attendee Todd, this film was complete in its comprehensive and humbling portrayal of humanity’s total and barbaric dominion over the animal kingdom in the sole name of greed and profit. I’ve been vegan for 14 years and was active in animal rights groups for a few solid years of that, so I’ve seen many films and documentation of animal torture and slaughter, but this film took the cake. I knew going in that I would be shaken and upset, but that’s part of the reason I do still go and see these types of films. It puts the aforementioned debates in perspective for me pretty quickly.
Industrialized human society has trashed this world. We are singularly responsible for its accelerating demise, and are absolutely selfish in our actions. All of the issues that you might hear us rambling about on this website, on our radio show, in the records we release, etc etc, are related to the use of power by dominant groups over those who have less power. But there is no more powerless and voiceless group than non-human animals. Even the most oppressed and discriminated-against group of human beings at any given time have much more ability to fight back and organize against their oppressors than animals do.
Morrissey’s analogy of job-creation as a justification for sealing being equivalent to justifying the gas chambers using similar logic is actually pretty limp, as no one ever tried to justify the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and others with anything other than pure racism and hatred. But it’s the general use of any analogies between human and animal oppression and murder that seems to get people so upset. Tim Wise’s article entitled “Animal Whites”, written last fall, about PeTA’s “Holocaust on your Plate” and “Are Animals the New Slaves?” exhibits in Washington follows a familiar tone – sure, paying lip service to animal rights is all well and good, but ultimately, it’s humans who matter the most, and how dare you compare oppressed peoples to oppressed animals. I mean, they are only animals. Tim Wise is a great writer, and his progressive analysis and commentaries on race have been actually thought-provoking for me. But this article shows that he, like most people, is a speciesist, and his ’supporting evidence’ for why one must concede it is wrong to make such comparisons is in my view flimsy and transparent.
That’s what this all comes down to: speciesim. The fundamental belief that humans have more of a right to be free from slavery and pain than non-human animals do, presumably because they can’t communicate with us in our language. Of course, it’s never occurred within our own species that one group has encountered another with whom they can’t communicate natively and therefore deemed them to be deserving of less (or no) rights. Has it? Er, well, maybe?
Even if all struggles for human liberation from concentrations of power and violence wielded by fellow humans were to succeed tomorrow (and let’s be clear – I would love nothing more!), where would this leave the non-human animal population of the planet? Would we extend them the same courtesy? Or would the animal factories, vivisection labs, and animal breeders just continue “for the good of all humanity”, now finally at peace with one another and unified under flowers, beers and … burgers?
This is why I make no qualms about placing animal liberation as the baseline, most fundamental issue of justice, and I consider no analogy or comparison beyond reason. They are dominated completely, and given less consideration than any human group. We spit on them, ridicule them, murder them in front of each other. Their carcasses are eaten en masse by members of every imaginable strata of society without thought. We have fucked them over completely.
So I apologize if I am not moved by complaints about how this or that analogy negatively affects this or that human group, how jobs for humans take precedence over the lives of animals, or how animal torturers (or even their immediate families) have a right to be free from harassment. As a human being I understand that all of us deserve justice, freedom, work and security. But we lose those rights when they are gained at the expense of others’ lives – human and non-human alike.
To all those working to save the lives of animals in the face of this giant, blood-thirsty machine of humankind I say: whatever it takes dawgs.