The Equating of Animal Abuse and Crimes Against Humanity

I’m going to depart briefly from the usual fare of self-cannibalizing left media critique and free speech suppressing, to chat briefly about an issue that keeps coming up around the rhetoric of animal rights. This would not be much of a departure from the usual here, or not a large one, if animal rights were widely accepted as a left concern. However, that’s not yet the case, and, in fact, the notion that we have ethical obligations to animals is widely disparaged and ridiculed on the left.

This is odd and disappointing given that the impact of meat and dairy production and commercial fishing spans a number of traditional left concerns — labor, the environment, land use, climate change, food distribution and censorship among them — which could benefit from agitation against industries that subject animals to extreme abuse. But that’s a fight for another day and probably other people, since I don’t have too much head left to beat against the wall.

However, I’m interested in how language fortifies oppression, abuse and atrocity and how propaganda works etc and there is this thing that keeps coming up, in large part because PETA — the most visible representative of animal rights — has a media strategy that could correctly be called trolling. I trust most of my readers are aware that the form this most provocatively takes is the likening of animal abuse to historical atrocities against human beings, typically the enslavement of Black people and the Shoah. A lot of rank and file animal rights proponents make these analogies also, although quite a large number also reject them.

I’m going to say at the outset that, after thinking on this harder than I normally do, I, with some ambivalence, oppose the use of these analogies in tweet, soundbite and slogan form due to insufficient context. Yesterday, before reaching this conclusion, I quoted this from Isaac Bashevis Singer on Twitter, because I had just read this Haaretz article about a Holocaust survivor/animal rights advocate that included it:

in the animal’s eyes, every man is a Nazi and every day is Treblinka

I probably wouldn’t do it again, but I also don’t regret it that much, because I had linked to an article that investigated the idea in greater detail, which does not entirely violate the  tweet/slogan/soundbite restriction I have placed upon myself. The other reason I don’t feel too bad is I think these analogies — within the framework of animal rights philosophy — are entirely reasonable and I think Bashevis Singer’s quote is wonderfully concise and vivid. I like the inducement to look briefly though an animal’s eyes.  Singer also said, when asked whether he had become a vegetarian for health reasons, “I did it for the health of the chickens,” which is another good line.

Singer’s epigram shows that PETA didn’t invent this comparison and, in fact, the analogy has a fairly rich history. The problem with indiscriminate use in a slogan way, is that this analogy is predicated on a conception of morality that most people don’t accept and, more importantly, are not even aware of. If they did accept the conception of morality on which this analogy is based, they don’t need any additional encouragement from it.  In other words, absent a discussion of the moral philosophy behind the analogy, these sentiments sing to the chorus and antagonize just about everyone else, and they are no doubt particularly vexing to Black people and Jews who don’t know their philosophical context.

The philosophical basis for these analogies is that it is not intelligence, or capacity for culture or any other uniquely human quality that imparts ethical and moral weight. It is the capacity to suffer. While you may disagree with this, it’s very clear that these analogies are only racist, anti-semitic or minimizing to people for whom humanness is the benchmark of moral consideration. In other words, to people who don’t make these analogies.

Clearly, these comparisons don’t aim to reduce the moral weight of Jews or Black people. They aim at increasing the moral weight of commodity animals, and their intended rhetorical potency presupposes that the Shoah and slavery are unspeakable atrocities and their victims as morally weighty as victims get.  The assertion that commodity animals are morally comparable to Jews and Black people is the logical consequence of commodity animals being morally comparable to all people. There is absolutely no implication in these analogies that Jews and Black people are like commodity animals in any way apart from the capacity to suffer, and their history of being objectified and abused by human majorities.

While I think I’m obliged to consider how these analogies are likely to be interpreted if expressed a certain way and in certain forums, I don’t feel myself under any obligation to reject the analogies altogether or to never discuss them. I can’t insist that people accept the vegan benchmark for moral consideration, but I think it’s reasonable to insist that accusations of racism or antisemitism predicated on a denigration of animals animal liberationists emphatically reject aren’t valid accusations. Repetitive insistence on how humans really are morally special isn’t going to fly either, any more than its antecedent, “ordained by God” would.

This is, I guess, another way of politely asking people who want to argue morality with animal rights people, and accuse them of racism, antisemitism or some other character defect, to be instantly recognizable as someone who has at least a few minutes acquaintance with the appropriate wikipedia page.  I think I speak for a lot of vegans in saying how mind-numbingly stupid I find most arguments that come at us, and marvel at the frequency with which these “arguments” come wrapped in froth, sneering, superciliousness and robotic repetitiveness.  Of course, that’s internet conversation generally, but I think vegan/not vegan hits lows that other topics don’t. Policing misunderstood animal ethics with vulgarized liberal-left politics — which often erases poor vegans and vegans of color from human existence entirely —  is becoming increasingly common. Which is why, for all our alleged self-righteousness, most vegans stay pretty quiet about it.

A more superficially compelling, less stupid route I think, is to grudgingly concede moral equality on the basis of suffering — if only for the sake of argument — but nonetheless insist that there are certain kinds of abuse that can only be visited upon humans and thereby impart to The Shoah and slavery qualities that render analogies to mass animal abuse trivializing or inaccurate. That’s a whole lot better than making cracks about “salad rights,” certainly, but I don’t find it terribly compelling. Ultimately it’s just a stealth “because human” argument.

There is, first of all, the simple matter of definitions. Of course, while the Holocaust was the climax of a lengthy period of terrorizing and persecuting Jews and other marginalized groups in ways that are simply not applicable to commodity animals — a farmer would of course never burn pigs out of their home, for example  —  the term generally evokes the Final Solution, in accordance with the more generally accepted meaning of  (small h) holocaust, which, for most people is mass slaughter. Hence, unless I’m missing something, the analogy makes its point without moral confusion or trivializing.

The same holds true for slavery. Yes, enslavement will feel different to a commodity animal than a human, because humans, by way of having different thoughts, feelings, emotions, self-conception will process it differently. However, again, I see no evidence that because it feels different for humans that this difference is so great that comparisons are essentially meaningless. Or that the suffering is greater. For most people, the concept, slavery, conjures  commodification, captivity and forced labor.  If one concedes that this is what slavery means, how is the commodification, captivity and forced labor of animals not analogous, if you rule out any moral difference inherent to humanness?

The mandate that anything analogized with slavery or the Holocaust meet some exceptionally high bar for directly corresponding elements — as opposed to simple correspondence to the fundamental, widely understood definitions — is more about political capital than morals. It is not simply animal liberationists that fight for a non-negligible place in the history of atrocities.  The Nazi genocide of the Roma, who were treated as a subclass in the Warsaw ghetto — their company, a punishment — has only become visible recently. The genocide against the indigenous peoples of The Americas still doesn’t have a fraction of The Shoah’s moral weight.

Nevertheless, these are contests between humans, and I might reluctantly entertain arguments for banning analogies, based on extreme experiential differences between humans and commodity animals, if based on something weightier than pure speculation about how these things feel. Until then, is there any rational basis for believing a dog being skinned alive to make a coat would suffer more if she had a citizenship to be stripped of first? If she left behind a distinguished body of literature? Do you think her experience is so different from a human guinea pig in some horrible concentration camp laboratory that they aren’t even comparable?

If so, I think you’re kind of an asshole, and also a liar. The benchmark, really, for what we call atrocities is treatment of humans akin to the hell visited upon commodity animals every day. It’s interesting that there is no reluctance to make human/animal comparisons with talk of “abattoirs” and phrases like “herded onto trains like cattle,” “used as guinea pigs” and “treated like work animals” when describing atrocities, so long as the context is a humans-only ethical system. Thankfully, most of the routine hells for commodity animals have yet to inspire human equivalents for comparison, at least not on the same enormous scale.

Millions of humans are not bred every year to be assaulted several times a day, kept in horrible conditions, until the day when they are crowded onto the truck for a long, uncomfortable ride that will take them to their horrifying, painful and sometimes agonizingly slow death.  Or kept around to make babies that are taken away from them and put in pens that they can’t even stand up in. There are no industries where humans are skinned alive or electrocuted from the inside out starting with their assholes.  Humans are not dissected alive, or kept in cages to have tobacco smoke forced down their lungs repeatedly, or their heads bludgeoned, or harsh chemicals rubbed into their eyes. If comparing the abuse of commodity animals to crimes against humanity is legitimately a stretch, it’s only because the exploitation of animals is, in terms of numbers, extreme viciousness and pure suffering, exponentially worse, regardless of where you come down on its moral significance.

Feel free to insist that humanness is the benchmark, and that animals are morally negligible if they have any moral weight at all. But don’t justify that moral negligibility with genuinely idiotic claims that reduce the scientific fact of their suffering.  Don’t insult me, or make an ass of yourself, by saying that humans are so different, and their suffering so unique and acute because of this difference, we need separate words to distinguish atrocities against them from the nightmares commodity animals live in.  Perhaps this made sense a hundred years ago, when we had no idea we were 96% chimpanzee. It’s pure superstition now.

What purpose do these distinctions serve other than to maintain a moral chasm that makes being nice, or progressive or against oppression or an “animal lover” entirely compatible with complicity in horrific, mechanized, indisputably unnecessary animal abuse? Do people honestly think that comparing the mass slaughter of intelligent, sentient creatures to human holocausts makes human holocausts more likely? That to say slavery means commodification, captivity and forced labor — even for non-human animals — turns back the clock on buying and selling humans? Makes people more racist? Where is the evidence or even the logic? It seems far more possible that insistence on a thick line — for whatever reason — between cruelty to humans and cruelty to commodity animals produces the exact opposite of its ostensibly intended effect.

So long as there are radically different constraints on abuse of animals and abuse of humans, justified by the simple fact that one is human and one isn’t, it will be easier to make arguments to abuse whole subpopulations, like Jews or Roma for instance. You need only convince a critical mass of people that The Others are not fully human in any meaningful sense. They’re something else — capable of suffering certainly —  but not human enough for moral consideration of their well-being. While humans will undoubtedly find all kinds of good reasons to treat other humans horribly, we needn’t make it so easy, by perpetuating a culture that places no upper limit on the suffering anything regarded as less-than-human can be forced to endure. Normalized domination, exploitation and sheer cruelty degrade everything, not least human relations.

Here’s what Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, a pacifist, conscientious objector and survivor of Dachau said on the subject:

“I have suffered so much myself that I can feel other creatures’ suffering by virtue of my own…I believe as long as man tortures and kill animals, he will torture and kill humans as well—and wars will be waged—for killing must be practiced and learned on a small scale”.

What a Holocaust-minimizing anti-semite, that guy.

Recommended Reading

Caged and Commodified, Still by Nancy Heitzeg

ZOMG The Vegans! by Patrick Higgins (@donnydiggins)

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78 Responses to The Equating of Animal Abuse and Crimes Against Humanity

  1. BRUCE TYLER WICK says:

    I would add, only: animals do NOT regard ALL humans as Nazis; that children are implied exceptions to the rule–not only through their capacity for suffering, but also through their capacity to love. It was said of one such woman of my acquaintance that, as a child, the birds would eat from her hands; and the Native American tribes, passing over the family’s lands, would honor her for that gift.

  2. Russ says:

    That sums it up well philosophically. I’ll add the empirical historical fact that those who have been willing to abuse animals or tolerate such abuse have, without exception, treated people the same way or been willing to tolerate such treatment. The same goes for any attitude of “man vs. nature”, that the environment is there to be controlled and dominated. Invariably such a militarist, domineering attitude has extended to social control and domination. The fact that there are still so many reactionary “leftists” who continue to exalt the worst of animal enslavement and environmental destruction is further proof of how worthless “the left” is as currently constituted, and how often there’s nothing to choose between it and corporate capitalism.

    The fundamental realignment humanity needs has to include a fully ecological mindset and analysis. Those who won’t fight for animals and the earth will never honestly fight for human beings either. As you said, these crises, crimes, and struggles are all inextricably interwound.

    • Tarzie says:

      That is an awesome comment.

    • I might almost just “flip” this around. The abuse towards other humans likely comes first. Easy enough to tolerate abusing “lesser” beings. Also easy enough to defend “lesser” beings while still “hating” very much humans who, at least one supposes, ought to be closer to equal as beings.

      • Tarzie says:

        The idea that abuse of humans lubricates abuse of animals seems rather baseless to me. How do you explain serial killers usually starting out with animals? Why does imperialism strain to dehumanize its targets? Why do we eat pigs but not people? Why do we call people we don’t like “pigs?” Do you think when people were hunters and gatherers, they started with cannibalism?

        Or is there something to your “flip” that I’m missing?

        Also, these people that hate people but love animals are among my least favorite animal rights straw men. I’m sure they exist as do all kinds of things that are rendered almost entirely irrelevant by their small numbers. It’s quite obvious that there is no excess of regard for animals we torture and eat.

      • I’m not thinking in terms of origins or “lubrications” here (or serial killers) but rather trying to think in terms of a time before there was clear “use” of animals. Perhaps there isn’t such a time and maybe it’s an imagined scenario when humans troubled other humans…feared them, fought with them, etc….and rather than slaughtering billions of creatures, instead lived in a way to respect the relationships among creatures. Again, perhaps this is a simplistic imagining of the indigenous North Americans or perhaps the indigenous people of Australia. But still, I think our myths often elevate animals and denigrate people.

        And what I’m trying to suggest is that it’s easier to consider protecting a species you feel superior to than protect one that you fear. It’s also easier to rationalize the “use” of those beings considered less than human (which includes other humans).

        I really wasn’t trying to disagree with any of what’s been said here because it seems right on. Especially the points you make about folks offended by analogies of suffering.

        I think I’m asking a question here: if it’s “easy” to slaughter billions, in secrecy (in hidden abattoirs) and in the statistical abstractions of those numbers, it must be because there is no understanding of “likeness” or perhaps an equivalent moral standing in beings that are not understandable in terms of language–which is to say, that we believe we must imagine a thinking aspect to creatures in order to give them a greater position of Being. But if humans can also readily enslave people, torture them, gas them, burn them, and yes, eat them in some cases, that is do this to those of like qualities, who we know feel love and pain and suffer, etc., how do we imagine changing the response to the creatures so many consider so much more insignificant?

        The beginning of genocide in Germany, I believe, took the form first of murdering the mentally challenged–testing the willingness of the perpetrators in the institutions. The slaughterhouse and the assembly line may have provided the models, but the belief in the “lesser” significance of any human seems more insidious than that of considering animals of less significance, which, if wrong, still seems a commonplace understanding. The ability to kill and torture a human must come first from the belief that some quality in you justifies this act. Beginning to test this with the torture of animals doesn’t come from the “approval” of society to kill billions of them for food but instead from the determination that one being can, may, clearly and randomly apply force and power and violence to dominate any other.

        We seem to kill, and justify killing, weakness, vulnerabilities. And we also fear that unless we dominate all creatures, all natural systems even, we will find out the weakest creatures are ourselves.

        I’m not trying to mitigate any of this, just working through it as prompted by your post and great commenters.

      • Tarzie says:

        But if humans can also readily enslave people, torture them, gas them, burn them, and yes, eat them in some cases, that is do this to those of like qualities, who we know feel love and pain and suffer, etc., how do we imagine changing the response to the creatures so many consider so much more insignificant?

        That’s a fine question that I don’t think anyone can answer conclusively. But, first off, I don’t think people “readily” do any of this stuff. They get bullied into it usually. They respect authority and the mob. And one of the things authority does on its way to turning people against each other is dehumanize them to each other. It’s the whole basis of bigotry. So, f raising consciousness has anything to do with improving the world, shifting the main criterion for moral consideration from human to sentient is a step in the right direction. If it can be made to stick, authority can still attempt to dehumanize, but it becomes harder to rationalize violence, even against an inferior.

        While its true that humans are just as violent as they ever were, I think there may be technological differences that are obscuring the way in which humans have improved. Most people are horrified by the idea of slavery. Most people no longer regard women as the property of men. Queers are not being treated in mental hospitals. While I think people are mostly acquiescent in the horrors of imperialism and whatnot, I don’t think people are all collectively equally at fault for them. There’s a problem with your we-ing and us-ing near the end of your comment because it ignores disparities in how much various people and institutions influence events, including crimes against humanity. I don’t think the average person is terribly inclined to domination. Most people I know can’t even stand arguing. I think they want shelter, food, love, sex, meaning and a bit of fun. But the meanest, richest guy wins so…

        Which is a long way of saying that I do think humans are capable of normalizing the better treatment of both each other and animals. The kind of dominating that causes needless suffering and death could eventually become taboo or at least the worst manifestations of it could.

      • Russ says:

        I suppose in theory it can go the other way around, and maybe does for scattered individuals, but in all cases I can think of the ideological flippancy toward animals and the environment is accompanied by a pretended caring about people, but in practice the domination and often cruelty is extended across the board.

        As for your second point, there may be scattered individuals who are good toward animals but cruel toward people (but there’s no such identifiable ideology), but there are no examples of any political or economic grouping that’s cruel or indifferent toward animals yet kind toward people, in spite of ideological lies to the contrary.

      • Tarzie says:

        This is mostly true but not entirely. I was reading up on the history of animal rights, and there seem to be occasions where animals got higher status than women. Also, I was shocked to read about the Third Reich’s animal welfare campaign, which, of course, had a strong anti-Jewish flavor — regarding slaughter practices, “Jewish” universities where vivisection took place etc. They passed an anti-vivisection law, which really surprised me. Because the rhetoric was about human/animal moral equality, they helpfully give opponents of moral equality a cudgel to beat us with. Surprised they don’t do it more often.

        Of course the Third Reich can’t really be considered a society so much as an episode of social psychosis. But that an animal rights campaign could coexist with genocide is nonetheless noteworthy. Also depressing.

      • piman says:

        Tarzie
        “I do think humans are capable of normalizing the better treatment of both each other and animals.”

        As much as I understand the pre-neolithic 100,00+ years of egalitarian hunter gatherer societies seem to strongly suggest that people do have such a capacity.

      • Russ says:

        You’re right, I’d forgotten about the bizarre confluence in Europe, going back to the 19th century, of anti-semitism, anti-vivisection, and vegetarianism. Hitler directly imitated the vegetarian part from Wagner.

      • These are difficult questions. I want to believe that most of us have no inclination towards treating others as though of lesser importance and that is where I think the strength of shared community experience can make a strong positive influence on people. We can see and feel a true interconnectedness (even in our gossip, which is the primary form of human communication it seems to me). However, there is still the family and it is still a man’s domain and the institutions we have created and continue to manage “us” are still in force. Also, how much of the common “non-dominance” in people is a learned response to being so clearly dominated in the social systems we inhabit? (Homer schools Bart, “can’t win, don’t try.”) And as you point out, our community can prioritize bigotry and hatred and condone and encourage degradation and mass slaughter.

        And as to “readily” this seems to me the truest thing I wrote. Don’t people readily go along with the “common” opinion in force without much actual consideration of the issue at hand?

        Though perhaps you are correct. If the 85% of those polled were against using the death penalty on Tsarnaev (in MA) and the feds imposed it (and chose the jury with the requirement that they had to consider the death penalty–which I guess means they chose from 15% of MA citizens) perhaps that isn’t a common act of murder.

        And if “America” is against Torture (via polling) and yet America (represented by institutions like NSA, CIA–the FBI seems to come out on the right side of this) is a torture nation, again, the “people” seem to be expressing a much different morality that the “will” of its leaders. And so we are governed against our national will. Even as so many seem persuaded by films like Zero Dark Thirty and television like 24–clearly instruments of state apologetics.

        Maybe we’re just not being allowed to see how much we actually do SHARE in our moral understanding of the ways we all feel we should act towards our neighbors.

    • shelley says:

      ” Most people are horrified by the idea of slavery. Most people no longer regard women as the property of men. ”

      This is kinda dumb, Mr. T

      • Tarzie says:

        Hi Shelley! So nice to see you again.

        And what is dumb about it, you childish troll? Please put me in my place. I would enjoy that. This way of engaging where you just give the finger and acquit yourself is not how we do things around here. It’s masturbatory. It’s like other blogs where no one wants to read the comments cause it’s all so lightweight and childish. Socially maladjusted egotists talking for themselves only. Hella boring.

      • shelley says:

        One thing about this blog that has my head spinning is why someone who insists on unmasking mere commenters as punishment for an alternative opinion is so keen on his own anonymity. Is it because he holds views he thinks the public at large is progressive enough to find abhorrent?
        Perhaps he thinks that racism isn’t real and that patriarchy is “so over”.

      • Tarzie says:

        Unmasking? Calling yourself Shelley and putting a real address that discloses your name in your deets when you could easily put a fake one in is hardly the most insistent bid for anonymity I’ve ever seen. But I’ll happily re-edit that comment. If you want to remain anon, I recommend not putting your real name in any part of any online forum, including in the fields that don’t display.

        With that out of the way, please point out where I said racism isn’t real and the patriarchy is “so over. Surely you’re not so stupid as to think that “Most people are horrified by the idea of slavery” equates to “racism isn’t real” or that “Most people no longer regard women as the property of men” equates to “patriarchy is ‘so over’.”

        I guess the temptation to use your name and your connection to a certain expensive, private uni comes from the fact that I have a bug up my ass about academia, and your contributions here are notably free of any indication of a higher mind. You’re belligerent and, from the looks of things not exceptionally bright, though the past year has taught me that sometimes the zeal to be a jerk gets in the way of adult thought processes. I suspect you can do better and you’ll have to if you wanna keep dropping by. We run a tight ship here where everyone pulls their weight. You’re making this place like all the comment dumps no one ever reads.

        I highly recommend changing your name and addy and coming back smarter and nicer. I’m biased against you at this point. I feel disappointed when I see your name in the queue. Is that what you want to inspire in people?

  3. fperodov says:

    Reblogged this on lingua parenthetica.

  4. To “salad rights” one could add the equally stupid “people eating tasty animals”, something I’ve heard far too often from people who think not eating meat is just a silly quirk.

    The quote you provide in your article from Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz ought to be enough to convince anyone not absolutely stuck in prejudice and the rut of tradition.

    • Tarzie says:

      people eating tasty animals

      Oh God, yes. Or shit like “I love animals. They’re delicious.” They always think they’re so fucking clever. When you become a vegan you really get an insight into how teeth-gnashingly stupid and arrogant being in an overwhelmingly powerful majority makes people.

      • They sure do think they’re being clever but I think they are trying to defend their lack of self-reflection.

        One carnivore actually said that my brain was damaged from not eating meat. Guess they’d never heard of mad-cow disease.

      • Tarzie says:

        One carnivore actually said that my brain was damaged

        Oh my God. Haven’t gotten that one yet. I love when people who’s idea of a meal is a hamburger and fries or steak and potato teach me about nutrition.

      • I was asked once “Where do you get your protein?” I replied, “From my food. Where does yours come from?”

        Just for the record I am not an absolute vegan as I eat a few eggs a week from my flock of chickens. But they’re hold overs from an earlier project that didn’t work out. I thought I would sell eggs at the farmers market but health regs are too restrictive for small operations. Anyway, they get to roam a big yard (9 chickens in 5000 sq ft) with grass and bushes, eat real food like I do, and aren’t forced to lay an egg a day.

      • Tarzie says:

        Yeah, I think raising chickens in pleasant conditions is a very small infraction if it’s an infraction at all. Especially if you’re saving them from a far worse fate.

        I am on fairly easy terms with hunting for food also. Like it or not, all farming, including vegetable farming, causes injury and death to animals. I think hunting large game animals, might, in utilitarian terms, be better than veganism. That’s another amusing carnivore habit, finger-wagging at hunters. It’s all about aesthetics with some people. Eating meat is one thing but killing it yourself? Eeeew what kind of person are you?

        I think “Where do you get your protein?” is a legit question. At least it’s not hostile. You can’t blame people entirely for believing things that have been drummed into their heads for years. I had to school myself on protein when I became vegan. I knew there was protein in vegetables, but I didn’t know which ones had the most or how much I needed.

      • Farming sure does injure and kill animals even if you’re just growing beans and corn. But if the land were all forest I doubt I’d be here doing what I do. Big farming just wipes out miles of habitat and then there is USDA and USFWS approved varmint control. Can’t have birds eating the sunflower seeds before we put them into the feeders for the birds!

        Where I live the land was once old-growth white pine and other trees. That’s all gone now since the big logging days from 1850 to 1930 or so. Lots of habitat was destroyed and lots of animals killed. Then the farms came in and more animals were shot (wolves mostly). I’ve begun reading on the pioneer history of this place (thinking of posting on this one day) and it is astounding the amount of destruction in so short a time. So in a sense my ability to farm is a direct result of the ecocide committed just a few generations back.

        I’m not against hunting if it is for food and provided the hunters aren’t deliberately training animals to come to feed piles just for an easy trophy shot. If you’re going to hunt then hunt and hunt for food (if you can buy meat then you don’t need to hunt for meat). Don’t sit in some heated and carpeted tree-house with plush chairs and an electric coffee pot.

      • AmishRakeFight says:

        Just chiming in to say I enjoyed reading this exchange between you two. I would agree that some people are genuinely curious when they ask questions such as “Where do you get your protein?” I’m sure the manner of asking is critical, since I could see the question being delivered in an “My god, what’s wrong with you, are you stupid?” sort of way that would warrant a defensive, hostile reaction.

  5. frankieteardrop says:

    I just wanted to say I really appreciate your treatment of this; in my own kind of unexamined intuitive sense the specific calling-out animal cruelty and slavery/holocaust has really stuck as what you identify and clarify as that of limiting, a rhetorical position, you know, seemingly used by the ordained capital-punishment rendering abortion door blockers. Opposed to the exact same variables as you know, in the most real and evocative sense, more widely encompassing, which had personally kind of blocked in out in a reactionary sense. Don’t know if you’ve seen this documentary “Speciesism,” a pretty direct rendering of this on what came to mind-in this sort of Michael Moore-Bildungsroman format the film is going for, after a few all-too-brief clips of Singer and like half an hour of commentary from PETA, most of the rest of the film takes the format of constant and rather superficial moral high ground ambush interviews (“are you a species-ist? why are you a species-ist?”) finally culminating in, why not, the arc’s apogee of throwing some j’accuses in an interview with the director of a holocaust museum. I mean, in the same sense you could say, what, Jack Chick and Meister Eckhardt are both taking off something of the same basic lexicon.

    For PETA specifically, was real disappointed recently to see the thing with Joe Arpaio, seems to me distinct from you know, trolling per se; more along the lines of,what, in context of admonishing Arafat not to use donkeys with suicide bombers(industrial weapons are fine), or the Detroit water bill thing-way open, invitingly replete to warranted flak associations (that would arbitrarily spill over) of sort of actively rejecting any kind of assemblage with any other kind of political consciousness, a more or less active endorsement of prison/economic/war-making realities, etc.

    • Tarzie says:

      I’m kinda dumb when things are not written in the same blunt way I do, so I’m not sure if you’ve gotten my point or not. My criticism is emphatically not of people who make holocaust/slavery analogies. My very qualified criticism of that is the making of those analogies in a flip way to people that are completely ignorant of their philosophical basis.

  6. robertmstahl says:

    Thanks for bringing this up. It has been on my mind, too. In a kind of religious one-upping experience recently, the conversation stopped when the other dude informed me he was a veterinarian and God-fearing, and no longer did I know what (the hell) was going on. There is a thread in evolution, or evolutionary “development” in an historical framework that points to this moment, now, as “post-historical” inasmuch as, or, such that the unconscious is mistaken for the subconscious in a vane similar to patina on a mirror, thus allowing bubbles to replace spheres, and time “falls” backwards, inexorably.

  7. jason says:

    the bible (genesis) & other mythologies presuppose a time of harmony b/n humans & animals, a “golden age,” but see this: “…and it is thought that the pig was first considered to merit slaughter because it rooted up the seeds with its broad snout, and destroyed all hope of harvest. The goat was led to death, at the avenging altar, for browsing the vines of Bacchus.” from the speech of “Pythagoras” in Ovid’s Met Bk 15. here, animals violate the property rights inherent in the development of agriculture. i’m not suggesting that this utterance is exactly accurate, the way it “really happened,” except that indisputably the “development” of civilization did not end the unnecessary slaughter of animals, I don’t think Ovid had this all worked out, but the suggested connection b/n being a carnivore & property rights I find fascinating. Similarly, with industrialization, the unfathomable & unnecessary misery of the factory began and the slave-state at its most vicious arose in the US South. why? notions of property & ownership itself rendered the owner class utterly indifferent to the suffering of humans, animals, and the earth itself. (for an interesting take on carnivores, religion (also discussed in the Ovid piece), and militarism, see the chapter titled “Scientia Spiritualis” in T. Mann’s “The Magic Mountain.”)

    thanks for those quotes & this detour from normal programming. you illuminate the connection b/n those monstrous pig farms in N Carolina, hydro-fracking in drought-stricken California, bombing for oil in Yemen & Libya, Chinese slave labor in Apple factories, etc. btw, traditional Marxism with its gargantuan anthropo-centrism is sorely lacking in insight in these areas.

    • jason says:

      and the police & surveillance state: google “pig farming illegal photography.”

      real eco-tourism would be to go see the great feedlots of America, tour Colonel Sanders’ chickens before they wind up in a bucket. Here’s a sea of pig shit the size of Lake Erie!

      (small family farms & hunting for food are rather negligible in the grand scheme.)

      • Tarzie says:

        I just realized thanks to you that i have to include Free Speech among the left concerns that animal abuse spans.

    • Tarzie says:

      Somehow this comment got by me. This is great. I tried to just keep myself to the analogizing because that’s the thing I see popping up the most often and its a good intro to the underlying philosophy. But I would love to see other lefties exploring things like the relationship to property rights, and a serious treatment of how the objectification of commodity animals is a staging ground for the objectification of humans.

      Here’s another good piece. As with all other politics, I’m not a deep theory person and this guy’s piece is weightier than mine and quite readable.

      ZOMG Vegans!

      • jason says:

        thank you for the link & compliment. long-time reader of floyd, silber, counterpunch, etc., who recently was disappointed that i hadn’t been reading you also.

        “…beef is a great destroyer of wit” from “12th night.” one of the greatest (imo) works of lit ever written meditates on why people from a land that has no lack of abundance scower the earth in 1000’s of ships to kill off its most magnificent creatures. in the penguin ed. I 1st read moby dick in, the intro states that if sweet black gold hadn’t been discovered in some mesquite shithole, the whale would have long ago been completely wiped out (sigh. may soon be a moot point.) is it any wonder that people who’ll rip this creature to shreds in a floating industrial slaughterhouse for their perfumes, lamps, corsets, quack medical cures, etc. will also rape Mexico & try to kill each other off over slavery and exterminate the natives?

        lest anyone think questions of madness (a la Ahab) are irrelevant, here’s obama per npr just now: “climate change is a national security issue. climate change will impact how we defend this great nation.” holy fucking christ. at least ahab had his leg chewed off. what’s this asshole’s excuse?

        a throwaway line by Strangelove? i don’t think so: “…we can raise animals for us to slaughter…”

      • Tarzie says:

        That’s all great stuff. Is the thing from the Moby Dick intro verbatim or are you paraphrasing? Melville wrote this?

        I love Sellers’ delivery of that line: animuuls could be bred and SLAUUUGHTERED!

      • jason says:

        yes, he’s hilarious. marvelous.

        no, sorry the quote is from some lit prof. melville wrote MD shortly before texas sweet crude was discovered, ’56 vs. ’63 i believe.

      • jason says:

        ahhh…kubrick. the opening of 2001 is worth considering. the hominids forage peacefully with the proto-“pigs” (or whatever they are). the hominids do “fight” over water holes but such fighting seems to be a lot screaming or chest-beating, ie, threat displays. until, in a leap “forward” in evolution, one of them starts smashing stuff, incl. the fellow critters, with a newly-discovered tool/weapon, a bone…which gets transformed into a spaceship…not sure how all this fits, the movie is very image-driven with little explanatory dialogue, but perhaps it’s suggesting that that kind of primitive violence was a necessary stage that must itself be overcome? (before the Space Baby can show up, who will tell us all what to do 😉

      • Tarzie says:

        primitive violence was a necessary stage that must itself be overcome

        I go back and forth on how possible this is. Our propensity for violence seems to have remained constant. It doesn’t seem to have diminished at all. Only the technology has changed.

      • jason says:

        can we be the pure id of the hominids? or the pure superego of the emotionally-efficient, sexless, hyper-rational spacemen? uhhhhh…is there a 3rd, more appealing option mr. kubrick? even if it’s the fucked up combo of both of those that actual human beings are now? anyway, there’s something in the movie about humanity’s conflict with its own tools/technology. Dave, no doubt wearing a “keep calm & carry on” t shirt, has his patently religious & long-winded flight to infinity & beyond after he shuts HAL down.

  8. robertmstahl says:

    Rudolf Steiner spent a lot of time in this area I think is basic ecology, an ecology of mind as Gregory Bateson put it. While laying out a landscape by which to stop and contemplate, the contemplation is the means for occupying “our” niche or filling in what was missing in the Darwinian sense of natural selection – instead of natural deselection. How could intelligence be non-ecological?

    Steiner referred to “it” as an impulse, or as clairvoyance, the importance of it much more predicate based than subject based. It was, however, an occult practice (occult, he used to mean “special” and little more). This way, one could regain the “original” connection to the spheres or dimensions with which brought us about, how we have evolved in connection to that rather than the bubbles we inflate upon as a society. Ultimately, it is what occupies the space between the lobes, which today seems to be a transference which, in no way, reflects the dimensions with which humanity has come into being, or come to know as occupation.

    Steiner always said his thoughts would be superseded over time, and I think they have, but the distribution principles of such learning and sharing (challenging and being challenged in some other-than-sport framework) are not, and never have been, part of the structure of civilization, just the status quo in acedemia, and particularly as time progresses. Perhaps, this is the most salient question, how could nature come up with “intelligence” and it become anti-ecological over the ages? Or, has it? While, only, we have left it behind.

  9. AmishRakeFight says:

    I really enjoyed this piece, Tarzie, and the comments as well. When I first started reading your blog and your twitter feed, I witnessed a few arguments you had on twitter related to animal rights and veganism. You argued your position very well, so I’m glad to see the topic brought up in more detail on your blog. I encourage you to write more about the topic, if you wish. Your writing has done a great deal to shape my political views over the last several years, and I’d welcome discussions of other topics. Please don’t take that as me being bored with your previous writing, that’s not at all my intent.
    I have only very recently started critically examining my diet and the implications it has for animals, the environment, and society. That’s another reason I sensible, open discussions of the topic.
    I come from a family of hunters and grew up primarily eating hunted large game meat as our source of animal protein. I have recently been trying to honestly weigh the ethics of hunting, and a lot of what has been discussed in previous comments has helped with that thought process. In my personal experience hunting with my family, we always try our best to limit the pain and suffering of the animals we kill, and I would agree that hunting is far better than a lot of other food production methods; certainly better than factory farming, and in some cases maybe even better than certain types of grain and vegetable production. But being honest with myself, there are times when, despite a well-intentioned hunter’s best efforts, hunted animals do suffer and do not receive quick deaths.
    Anyway, I don’t really know where I’m headed, other than to say I appreciate the topic being brought up on this great blog and among its intelligent commenters. If anyone has any questions about hunting, I’d be happy to provide whatever insight I can. But in terms of the greater topic of animal rights and veganism, I’m more inclined to listen and learn since, as I said, my thoughts and positions on those matters are in a fairly infant stage.

    • Tarzie says:

      Thanks Amish. So good to see you here and such fine form!

      That’s all really interesting about hunting and your background. I hadn’t really given the moral calculus of hunting vs. farming much thought until I read an essay somewhere by a guy who believed in the ethical treatment of animals and was also a hunter. Until then — I hate to say this — I hadn’t even considered the impact of vegetable farming on animals, from the rodents that get chewed up during plowing to the deers that get shot for wandering in for a meal, to say nothing of the habitats they plow over. It’s really kind of depressing that there is only harm minimization and it’s not always simple. It’s just the cruelty baked into all life.

      I don’t fault you for encouraging me to branch out a bit, even if your secret reason is boredom. There are several reasons why I have gone down a fairly narrow road til now. The extent to which people s try to drive others away from this blog and privacy concerns set some of the limits on what I write.

      And then there’s the simple tendency to stick with the things you’re good at, and I’m not terribly sharp on a lot of things that concern most leftists, such as foreign policy. It’s hard to convince myself that there are areas I can pursue that aren’t widely and better done by others. With media critique I do think I’ve been capable of more originality and independence than I would be on most other topics. I think I lucked into making a couple good observations that led to whole lot of other observations. After calling the king of rebel journalism and intel asset, I don’t think there is too much further to go.

      I finally broke the ice on this animal rights thing because objections to these human atrocity comparison keep coming and I really hate them and they’re mostly based on a misapprehension of what’s being said. I felt putting it in long form might give my usual rebuttal some staying power, and be something other people can link to when the confront this bullshit. Generally when I open up a new topic I’m inclined to pursue it more. I become more curious. More committed to getting a dialogue going, so we’ll see. Others have said they’d like me to do more of this also.

      Anyway, blah blah. Again, good to see you here, and as ever, I really appreciate your comments.

      • AmishRakeFight says:

        Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful reply, Tarzie. I spotted a typo in my original comment that I wanted to clear up. The last sentence of the first paragraph should read, “Please don’t take that *as* me being bored with your previous writing, that’s not at all my intent.” My lack of comments lately were due to an IT issue at work that screwed with how some websites were displayed, but I have read every piece. Thankfully that issue is finally fixed, at least for now.
        There’s no need to explain yourself as to your recent writing topics, though your explanation is understandable, especially the part about sticking with what you’re good at. When it comes to left media critique, you have enviable instincts, so I can’t fault you with focusing on that.
        Really I just wanted to mention that your arguments pertaining to veganism were one of the first things that drew me to following your writing and observations.

        “It’s really kind of depressing that there is only harm minimization and it’s not always simple. It’s just the cruelty baked into all life.” Indeed, one encounters this conclusion many times when deeply exploring ethical, moral, and environmental issues, it seems. It is depressing, but I think it’s also a bit empowering to at least have that awareness. It motivates one to continually keep their eye out for alternatives or improvements.

      • Tarzie says:

        Just so you know, the typo didn’t throw me. I simply meant that even if you were bored, I wouldn’t fault you.

      • jason says:

        NPR: the calm soothing voice of expertise & lib bureaucrats assuring us that over-educated authority figures with the best of intentions are on top of whatever problem. barf. at least the Fox crowd gets their existing rage (mis)stroked from time to time. “Good evening…this is ‘all things considered’…and i’m (oh my self, my precious, yes, we wants it, my precious, my self)….robert smeagol.” Fox on Libya 2011: “is obama manly enough against that monster qaddafi? what would reagan do?” shrieks, thumps chest, munches on raw meat. NPR on Libya 2011: “is obama doing enough humanitarian intervention to help the women of Libya? what would clinton do?” earnestly concerned clucking schoolmarm sipping a wheat germ smoothie. b/c i am more around npr types, i find the different brand of utter bullshit from fox occasionally refreshing. sorry, now i’m gone way off topic.

      • Tarzie says:

        sorry, now i’m gone way off topic.

        Not at all! Media dipshittery is always our topic. And anyway, derailments are allowed if they’re entertaining. I love this rant.

        You might appreciate this post from RH pal, Lorenzo, since it covers similar ground about saying the same thing different ways. Lorenzo is a good writer and often funny, in case you’ve never read him:

        Election 2016 Snapshot

  10. BlanchoRelaxo says:

    Nice piece Tarzie, and great comments as usual. Also good to see ARF back commenting(!); I recall Amish’s comments being amongst those that stood out for me as helping cut to the fine point on some of the discussions on your blog when I first began following it. I think what sealed the deal for me at that time – and I don’t recall the precise post or discussion thread, you’ll have to forgive me – was a series of comments and replies from the likes of Amish and others(GFTI was in there too, amongst others, I believe..) which culminated in your revising your original post fairly significantly and including an update to the effect that you had reflected upon the discussion amongst your commenters and yourself and have altered your position and the underlying thrust of the post as a result(a revision versus a retraction, certainly). The wisdom(versus knowledge, per se) demonstrated as that unfolded was instructive to me both in how I could begin to approach reflection upon many knotty issues myself, but also of the level of discourse I could expect on this blog.

    In terms of comment on this post itself, I have a brief one. There is in my opinion a very strong connection between our ability as a society to treat animals as we do in general terms and our resignation to ignorance regarding the impacts of our daily lives on the countless unseen others, whether down the block or round the other side of the planet. Not only is there a connection, they are probably the same thing, or at least they are analogous(probably fairly obviously..). Ignoring systematic marginalization in communities and societies in general is destined to result in similar catastrophy and upheaval as will disregarding the extent to which humans need to harmonize with eco-systems and all other living creatures therein in order to carry on satisfying the basic conditions that keep us all alive.

    • Tarzie says:

      There seems to be a homecoming underway, and people are bringing flowers. How lovely. It’s always nice to know that among the people who like this blog there are some that *really* like it in a way I hadn’t anticipated. And as you indicate, a lot of the attraction is down here in comments. People really do engage with each other.

      There is in my opinion a very strong connection between our ability as a society to treat animals as we do in general terms and our resignation to ignorance regarding the impacts of our daily lives on the countless unseen others, whether down the block or round the other side of the planet.

      Yeah, I completely agree. That’s too little talked about really: how dependent capitalism is on denial about how much suffering it causes. I think that might be one reason why animal rights is potentially more disruptive than similar struggles on behalf of marginalized human communities. Shifting the benchmark from human to suffering, is bound to have all kind of consequences in relation to the objectification of humans for other humans ends. Put another way, capitalism can’t function without resignation to huge amounts of suffering. The other disruptive thing about animal rights is it can’t be appropriated via representation. You can’t run a cow for president. There’s no co-opting it that I can see. Regardless of their intent, I think these people that want to keep this fake distinction between humans and non-humans are running interference for capitalism.

      • jason says:

        “no co-opting it,” Lardy Lard, i hope you are right. worth thinking about. A couple of years back I had a conversation with a quite petite 60-ish yr old woman who went with a group, unarmed, on anti-puppy mill raids in rural Pennsylvania in the middle of the night. rather dangerous. (sorry, i don’t mean to belittle her by mentioning physical traits. quite the opposite, in fact.) beside just drawing attention to the issue, i think they wanted to movitate the local cops to do something about stuff the cops silently condoned. The only way to do so was to put some human bodies in danger. At the time, I was somewhat dismissive of their zeal for this issue (not of the courage displayed). “hey, there are ‘human mills’ too. what about them?”

        much to think about. moreover, being a chicken gutter ain’t no easy job. save the birds & the workers.

        and there’s always shit like this:
        http://www.alternet.org/story/67663/dick_cheney's_sadistic_passion_for_shooting_tame_animals

      • Tarzie says:

        yes of course save the humans which is why I mentioned all the other issues animal welfare spans. Conditions in meatpacking are exceptionally horrible, I understand. But they’re worse for the animals.

        save the humans gets said all day every day so i find constant reminders of that kind whenever there’s any discussion of animal rights somewhat annoying. Just sayin’. I also don’t fault a single person for dedicating their entire political lives to making shit better for animals until there is anything even remotely like parity in the crimes done to each. I give them props for strength. Animal defense is extremely soul-killing.

      • jason says:

        this has been very informative for me. for whatever my personal habits are worth, largely for health reasons but also from disgust at industrial ag, i’m about 99.99% vegan. i’m too lazy to check my hunger & not eat what others have prepared sometimes. i came at my lefty orientation thru marxism, which seems pretty indifferent to these concerns.

      • Tarzie says:

        seems pretty indifferent to these concerns.

        yes even hostile. i got into some fights this week. I’m kinda sick of the marxist thing. someone on twitter just said he didn’t know if an old blog post of his about animals would stand up to marxist critique.

        i’m not going to embrace any politics that denigrates the suffering of other creatures and care for the environment. a lot of marxists seem very stuck in the past and no less wedded to their sacred book than religious fanatics. I love some of them, but others are just big pain in the ass.

      • Russ says:

        The one kind of co-opting or treachery I’ve seen has been that some “animal welfare” groups will run interference for poison-peddlers like Monsanto, supporting the corporate position that agricultural and other poisons should be rubber-stamped by regulators with negligible or no safety testing. Thus the national office of the Humane Society filed a TTIP brief in support of extending the US non-regulation procedure to Europe. (“Harmonizing” such a lack of regulation is one of the main purposes of globalization pacts.) And in Europe, at least, there are some astroturfs calling themselves animal rights groups but whose one and only action is to advocate the gutting of safety-testing requirements (not that the EU’s requirements are stringent, they’re actually picayune, but the fact that they exist at all is an affront to the corporate prerogative).

        Now, I’m an anti-poison abolitionist myself. Anyone who follows the problem and actually cares about evidence knows we already have far more than enough evidence to ban, for example, glyphosate. So I don’t call for “more testing”, and I’m not interested in sacrificing yet more animals to the cause of gathering more evidence the system doesn’t care about anyway. I want to fight to abolish the product, and part of that is a better use of the evidence we already have, which ought to be enough.

        But those who support the corporations and merely want to “reform” their practice, or anyone else supportive of or willing to tolerate the poison paradigm, have an obligation to prove these substances are not hazardous to health. So they have to demand real safety testing, or else abandon their pro-corporate position and become abolitionists (which is what I say people should do).

        But to say “the poison program should continue, but there should be little or no safety testing”, is rationally moronic and morally depraved, and utterly incoherent from any point of view than that of a corporate propagandist or the kind of authoritarian who unquestioningly swallows corporate PR and corporate “science”.

        So that’s one place I’ve seen co-opting of the animal welfare position. Which is especially ironic and depraved in that the #1 purpose of poison-based agriculture is to generate animal feed for factory farms, the ultimate and infinite centers of animal cruelty. So to support this kind of agriculture means, first and foremost, to support feeding poison-laden food to animals incarcerated in factory farms, and therefore to support the existence of factory farms as such. (They couldn’t exist without this feed system.)

      • Tarzie says:

        Yes. That all makes sense. I wasn’t being very imaginative when I said animal rights couldn’t be co-opted. “A Cow Can’t Be President” isn’t the most considered observation I ever made.

        I’m really liking your blog by the way. I’m so glad my post elicited a different type of discussion here and that you partook. I really like a lot of your ideas about where people should put their energy. Your understanding of how this riff raff operates makes your pitch especially compelling.

      • jason says:

        One purpose of the Kiev coup is to use the fascists to smuggle GMO’s into a populace (Europe) that is VERY resistant to GMO’s. militarism, corporatism, destruction of bio-diversity. I should say, try to smuggle GMO’s in. Fortunately, i think, they’ve been a bit side-tracked so far. On an unrelated note, I listen to the local pbs/npr classical music radio station religiously down here in metro DC with their 3 minutes of “news” at the top of each hour & pbs news hour at 7pm. Gawd, is there anything more awful than npr & pbs news? “cuba may put restrictions on US embassy personnel’s activities.” oh those crazy cubans….

      • Tarzie says:

        Yeah NPR is the worst. I can’t even stand that NPR voice. I can’t even describe it, but you know instantly that you’re listening to NPR as soon as they open their mouths.

        I’m realizing I really need to study up on GMOs, largely thanks to this discussion. Our new commenter Russ has quite a good website about it.

      • jason says:

        thanks for the link above, tarzie. good stuff. & Russ, goddamit, where the hell do these people come from? the same kind of crap, eco-cide, bio-cide, with the energy extraction & nuke/bio/chem/war industries. “power is the ability to turn a body into a corpse”-simone weil. at least power at this level, a body, any body, every body, nature’s body. a bunch of fucking iago’s running the show telling us all to put money in our purse, so we can buy love/sex, natch, just like in the commercials! meanwhile, something far more sinister is afoot. why? why? why? lust for control, dominance, etc., but why? sorry, no answer needed. that glyphosate crap…wow.

      • Russ says:

        Thanks for the good words about my site, Tarzie. I think yours is excellent as well. Been reading for awhile. If you want to read up on GMOs, I hope my site can return the favor for how you’ve helped me work out my thoughts on “free speech” and some other things. Jason, where it comes to corporate agriculture and the poisoner mentality in general we have a confluence of corporate power, scientism ideology/religion, and what I think is a general combination of the short-run quick-fix mentality with a petty domination lust, which combines to make lots of people think the right answer to the slightest hindrance is to spray some kind of poison. It’s the same as a “Call the police!…Lock ’em Up!…Send in the troops!” mentality. This coexists very uneasily with the growing but so far inchoate fears so many people clearly have about the wholesale poisoning of the food, air, water, soil, and ecosystem. I think it’s a politically combustible situation which can go either way: The “fear itself” can turn against corporate rule, or it can be astroturfed into a doubling down. All the propaganda phenomena Tarzie writes about at this blog are rampant within the scientific establishment as well.

        One of the main reasons for the Ukraine adventure is as a giant land grab. One of the first things the new regime did was change the law so foreign corporations can own farmland. That’s why the likes of Monsanto and Cargill have remained bullish on Ukraine even in spite of the military conflict.

        I hate NPR too, pure shills for everything from Wall Street to war, and also a favorite “liberal” conduit for GMO propaganda. We’d be much better off if it ceased to exist. I listen to a classical station but always turn off the volume when the toxic news comes on.

    • AmishRakeFight says:

      Thank you very much for the kind words, though I think you give my comments too much credit. At least that’s how I feel. I feel like I get far more out of the comments and discussions on this blog than I put into them. Nonetheless, I appreciate it.

    • jason says:

      thank you for your work Russ. the “lifestyle” and “convenience” issues are huge. think cars & air-conditioning, among others. how are we gonna fix all this crap? i don’t know, nobody knows for sure or even if it’s possible, but for starters we’ve got to just STOP. the over-worked earth is over-worked thru over-worked people. so class-struggle & environmentalism are in fact the same thing. embrace the virtue of laziness & the value of leisure. don’t listen to all the chicken littles out there cackling, “what are you doing? why aren’t you doing more?” about all this shit you bitch about (i hear this crap constantly.) imposing a capitalist work ethic on anti-capitalist activism! obviously i am calling for a national strike (i grew up in a very religious background, so to appeal to the nuttery in the US, we’ll call it “keeping the Sabbath.” animals included.) a strike for what? for nothing, a strike AGAINST WORK. also has the virtue of being non-violent (no worries; the billy clubs & bullets will come out. they must.)

      it’s dismaying how much of a slave-mentality we have internalized. Today, nobody do what the boss tells you to do. tell ’em “i’m shomer fucking shabbas.”

      • Russ says:

        It’s amazing how few people seem to want to have leisure and enjoy life, but rather seem voluntarily to force themselves along a grim death march of the “Protestant work ethic”. They keep telling themselves they’re doing it in order to get rich even though they know perfectly well they do nothing but run faster and faster just to stay in place. And all in fidelity to the exact same lie that was told back in the 50s – just work hard for a few more years, and we’ll all enjoy comfortable lifestyles working just a few hours a week.

        In fact this was materially possible (morally there’s the fact that the material wealth of the West was built on the backs of the South, and of animals and ecosystems; but even if such exploitation hadn’t existed, modern fossil fueled civilization was rich enough for all of us to provide ourselves with a basically decent life, and even now still is), but was never intended to happen since with capitalism the real plan is always for a handful of gangsters to steal the vast majority of the wealth. So it’s always been, and so it will always be for as long as this system continues. Yet people continue to shackle themselves to the machine, even though we can start freeing ourselves at will the moment we stop lying to ourselves that we’re all gonna be rich, or that being rich is even a desirable goal once wealth concentration itself and its pathologies no longer exist.

        All pro-capitalist propaganda boils down to: Life is a vicious competition, getting rich is the only goal and the only measure of humanity, and YOU can become rich, which is the only way you can become human.

        The way things are right now, if you diverge from these dogmas in your practice, and especially if you let it show that you lack the money to even try to keep up, you quickly experience, if nothing else, the intense pressure which seeks to dehumanize you. One of the hardest things to muster is the inner strength to hold your head high under these circumstances. That’s part of why we need, far beyond just some cobbled-together “better political party”, a fully grounded, rooted, coherent cultural and psychological movement. Anyway, history proves that radical political change can’t be synthesized on the cheap and easy, The fact that most people who acknowledge that such change is needed nevertheless dream of a quick fix like that, and even still strive to find it within the Democrat Party or some epigone of it, is part of the cultural/spiritual corruption that needs to be overcome.

      • Tarzie says:

        Well said.

        I see from your blog you were involved in Occupy? Were you in New York? I ask because I never met anyone like you while I was there, except maybe right at the very beginning.

      • Russ says:

        If you’re asking me, no I wasn’t involved. I followed it pretty closely at the time and wrote a bit about it.

  11. forest says:

    correct me if i’ve misread you, but why do you oppose that which you think is reasonable? “I, with some ambivalence, oppose the use of these analogies in tweet, soundbite and slogan form.” and then “The other reason I don’t feel too bad is I think these analogies — within the framework of animal rights philosophy — are entirely reasonable”. am i missing something? why would they be acceptable in one framework and not in another, if one considers animal abuse to be a crime against humanity without exception – humanity taken both individually and collectively?

    • Tarzie says:

      Perhaps I need to clarify my language but there are two things being described in that part of the post: one is making these polarizing analogies disconnected from any reference to their underlying philosophy via slogans, tweets, soundbites (not good). The other is making these analogies in a context where they are explained. (good)

      I said “with ambivalence” mainly cause I drew that conclusion only recently and because I don’t think the reasons for not doing it in decontextualized form are so important that a lapse is something to get too worked up over. I don’t really like conceding anything to people who object to something because they misunderstand it, but I think it’s reasonable to do so in this case.

  12. forest says:

    but isn’t the underlying philosophy implicit in the statement itself? i guess i just don’t get the difference. in any case, great thread. a one-time vegan, i know first-hand how quick and desperate people are to find the flaw that’ll show the vegan to be a fraud. tell ’em you’re dirtiest secret, they won’t bat an eye, but let ’em find out you’re vegan and watch them become who they truly are. it’s seldom pretty. i’d become vegan because i didn’t want the violence in my body. i had enough in me as it was. but to see it for what it is is nothing short of horrifying. one has to be less than human not to see and feel it.

    • Tarzie says:

      but isn’t the underlying philosophy implicit in the statement itself?

      That’s a really great question and also speaks to my ambivalence about my moratorium on vegan hot takes. I think the philosophy *is* implicit in the statements. Suffering = Measure of Moral Weight is exactly what’s being asserted. I mean, slavery and the Holocaust are introduced in these examples because they’re so horrible, because Black and Jewish lives matter so much. It’s presented as obvious that animals don’t resemble Black people or Jews in some way they don’t resemble Gentiles. It’s obviously just an inducement to expand protection from abuse to everything.

      But the outrage machine and people who just can’t analyze a damn thing — cause that would mean taking a deep breath before hitting that keyboard — and are completely unable to imagine that people have different premises than they do that lead them to different conclusions makes this a very hard sell. If people think that the moral philosophy that puts suffering first is racist, then fine. They’re full of shit — there’s absolutely no argument for it — but at least they’re not talking out of their ass entirely. It’s very clear to me that people who havent really thought about this see these comparisons as really offensive, and the only explanation is that they are interpreting them through the lens of “humans first.” I also think people really vary on how they see animals. Some people just really don’t like them. Find them disgusting. Bereft of complexity. Dumb. So to have their own nightmare compared to an animals just feels really wrong. I’m just guessing, but I think there must be some of that. I see the way people treat their dogs and I think, God, why did someone who obviously hates dogs, get a dog? Happens a lot.

      But I completely understand your confusion which I think is rooted in generously crediting people with a better grasp of language and abstraction than most of them have. They don’t get things, right off the bat, especially if they’re inclined to recreational outrage. I also think that veganism just really provokes people for all kinda reasons and they look for excuses to belittle and disparage it. People seem almost joyful when PETA does something they can all hyperventilate about. They can’t shut up about it and it’s always read as some deficiency baked into animal rights.

      • Russ says:

        It’s obviously just an inducement to expand protection from abuse to everything.

        It’s part of the general principle which anyone, including all types of reformists, ought to subscribe to. Where it comes to policy reforms, for example, it’s a no-brainer that anyone who’s honest would demand nothing other or less than things like Single Payer and a guaranteed minimum income, which would benefit all non-elites, and the poor most of all. The fact that such an obvious idea is controversial at all, let alone angrily rejected by many who claim to want the betterment of humanity, is one of the many proofs that they’re lying when they claim to care about anything but sowing discord and division.

        I also think that veganism just really provokes people for all kinda reasons and they look for excuses to belittle and disparage it.

        I think for many it’s one of those things which they take as some kind of affront to statism and “Science”-worship. Of course it’s also stereotyped as some kind of elitist liberal thing (and sometimes with justification; I’ve seen upper-class vegans who don’t really care about animals, farm workers, agricultural biodiversity, or the environment, but these are a minority among those I’ve known). Most of all it’s a constituency which seems easy to bully, and so attacking it appeals to authoritarians of all stripes.

  13. davidly says:

    Very well laid out, as usual. Reading the comments, I am reminded of someone’s attributing Upton Sinclair’s effect on the slaughter-housing industry as being an indirect one, paraphrasing: that an improvement of working conditions came about by way of the conscience of the public’s stomach. I was reminded of this by way of the same author’s “Oil!”, which upon deeper analysis (than you’ll get from Hollywood) makes clear the apparent connection between ecology and the struggle of the working class.

    Indeed, true, that capitalism requires a sort of debilitating denial as it relates to organizing against it, itself part and parcel of the capitalist society and therefore not just subsumed from the outset, but inextricable. I’ve had something in my draft folder for far too long that has to do with manufacturing plausible consent, which is either an outgrowth of the manufacture of consent or was always requisite. Now, I am thinking about the ostensible manufacture of consent for those who strive to make sense of it (which would relate to your previous post as well) — in short, that which we believe others believe.

    All of this comes to me by way of the notion, pernicious in the minds of all ostensible political affiliation, that it doesn’t matter what you do, they got you coming and going. May as well have a burger. It is oligarchy’s greatest triumph: the false conflating of the choices given in a liberal democracy with how the governed should choose to live their lives.

  14. john says:

    Tarzie says:

    Our propensity for violence seems to have remained constant. It doesn’t seem to have diminished at all

    yeah, it’s only been sanitized with morality campaigns…the plight of tree frogs in the deforested forest, save the whales in a septic ocean, conservation hunting for black rhinos, and for people…R2P.

    • Tarzie says:

      Interesting that you should say that. I had been wondering to myself how something like animal rights could be co-opted since they can’t go the usual route of tokenizing in high places. I think what you’re saying points out the way things will go as environmental and animal rights concerns gain traction. Another flag to wrap themselves in, signifying nothing really.

      • Russ says:

        There are several corporate front groups like the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, the Environmental Defense Fund, and some others who specialize in high-profile corporate “partnerships” to allegedly conserve a particular tract or endangered species. In return the “environmental” group supports the corporate drive to sacrifice the vast bulk of the targeted lands and resources and greenwashes the horrendously destructive practices themselves, such as fracking, factory farms, or industrial soy production.

        An added bonus is that the corporate environmentalists also run political interference where the corporations drive peasants and indigenous tribes off the sacrificed lands, often with extreme violence. These NGOs also tend to want to run any indigenous tribes out of the token conserved tracts and national parks I mentioned above.

  15. bholanath says:

    Hello,
    I found your blog maybe 8 months ago, and have just wanted to send a real “thanks and praises”. This place, the writing, the subjects covered, the commenters (can I say ‘tribe’?) is truly among less than a handful of superb offerings found on the web and blog-world, uniquely knowledgeable, wise,
    thoughtful, respectful, articulate, free-form and down-to-earth language, and caring about the state of the world for future generations.
    I’ve been semi-involved with AR for 30+ years (a depressingly long grind), so I was very happy and moved to see these subtleties explored here. I ran a county animal shelter a few years, and more recently have been working in wildlife rehab in the Southwest. What’s being discussed here is an aspect long-needed to be covered – the language manipulation and consequent perceptions around AR and environmental issues. Thanks for this thread.
    Don’t have much to add, but I always liked the quote of John Trudell:
    “We’re not going to change Sexism until we address how we live with the Mother Entity, the Earth, and that’s the reality of it. And we’re not going to change and deal effectively with Racism until we change how we live with the Living Plants and Animals and World that is the Earth. And if we ignore these two things, then no matter what the people do and create for themselves, there will always be Madness and Chaos, because they’re only Pretending to be connected.” – John Trudell

    At 69 years, and weathered through great losses, I tend to roll with the mystic side of things, and take to heart this experiential-derived statement by another wise true human being:
    “One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don’t talk to the animals, they won’t talk back to you, then you won’t understand, and when you don’t understand you will fear and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself.” –Chief Dan George

    respects

    • Tarzie says:

      Thank you so much for your compliments and for your dedication to improving lives. I think sticking with animal rights takes more strength than most things. The level of cruelty is so extreme. It’s soul killing. So you should feel proud of having contributed for so long.

      I love the quotes you offered. I completely believe that if we don’t attempt harmony with nature, we’re screwed. and it’s gotta happen soon.

  16. jasmine says:

    Excellent article.

  17. Pingback: Animal rights in an age of corporate globalization | HermannView

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