I worked in a chicken slaughterhouse 40 years ago this summer. I was a student at a college in London learning how to manage hotels and restaurants. Three years later, I was a vegan at Compassion In World Farming, campaigning against factory farming and the live export of farmed animals to Europe. Today, I work as an independent scholar and author on animal rights, and proud to include Compassion among my clientele.
Looking back on my life in animal rights has preoccupied me recently. This is because I have obsessed over the completion of the manuscript for my first book. I explore what it means to care deeply about animals. I look back on my involvement in the animal rights movement in the UK and USA. I conclude there are four key values in animal rights: Compassion, Truth, Nonviolence and Justice.
The end of January is not too late to consider what I want to accomplish this year. Clearly, the book, which has still yet to be finally named, will be a major preoccupation. In fact, I am as fed up with talking about my book-to-be as you must be in hearing me prattle on about it. At last! I will breath a sigh of relief because it will be finished. And those who want to will be able to read it because Lantern Books will publish it in May.
Here’s a recording of me briefly talking about the book and reading a short extract from the Introduction.
Writing is just one chapter in a book’s history. The next is the promotion and marketing to draw attention to what it has got to say. I will be in the USA on a book promotion tour from May to July. Before then, I will relaunch this website to feature the book. Incidentally, I have put the blog of my alter ego, the Grumpy Vegan, on hold because he deserves a well-earned rest.
Writing is a large part of my life now. In addition to my first book, I have also written papers for four academic journals and anthologies to be published in Italy, Canada, the USA and the UK. I will share with you here information about them as they are published. Also, I am working on a second book which explores the animal rights movement in America and Britain. My goal is to publish this as an ebook in the summer. Then, later, to publish it as a ‘real’ book.
Meanwhile, I continue to work with various organisations as an independent consultant.
The Animals and Society Institute is very dear to my heart, not only as one of its co-founders along with Ken Shapiro, but also as a very special group dedicated to, among other things, the development of Human-Animal Studies.
It’s great to be involved again with Compassion In World Farming. This time I work closely with Philip Lymbery, Compassion’s Chief Executive, as Editor of his blog, A Compassionate World. I assist Philip with the research and development of material that the blog considers.
If your organisation is interested in exploring how I may be able to help you as an independent consultant, please email me at email@example.com.
I also believe in giving back to the animal rights movement and volunteer for two groups. One is local; the other international.
The first is East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service, which rescues, cares, treats and releases, whenever possible, injured wildlife back into the glorious part of England that I live. The other is Minding Animals International, which I help as its Deputy Director. I work on MAI’s further development and our next international conference in January 2015 which is in partnership with the Wildlife Trust of India.
All in all, 2013 looks to be a very busy year. Which, of course, is as it should be, all the while animals are denied justice.
Please stay in touch with me by:
- Visiting this website for periodic updates and announcements, including speaking engagements
- Following me on Twitter as the Grumpy Vegan
- Liking me on my personal Facebook page and my official Facebook page
- Connecting with me on LinkedIn
- Viewing my photos on Pinterest
- Search my animal rights collection on LibraryThing
- Read my book reviews at GoodReads
Here’s to making a difference for animals in 2013!
Although the impact of ecofeminism on my thinking about animal rights is as present as ever in my life, I had forgotten how important the presence of Feminists for Animal Rights was in the animal rights movement … until yesterday’s conference in celebration of the life and work of Marti Kheel at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
It is Sunday morning. The day after a very long day yesterday spent in the conference. I am still too close to what happened to be able to say anything about it other than it was incredible.
To meet and hear attendees and speakers, who are old friends and colleagues, some not seen in decades, and authors and intellectuals, who I only know through their writings but have now had an opportunity to hear speak, is something to be celebrated. Such a richness of insight and expertise.
The conference was built around a series of four presentations. Each one consisted of a panel of mostly four speakers in each one. As one of the presenters, we were asked by the organisers, Carol Adams and Lori Gruen, to submit a paper in advance to share with our fellow presenters. At the conference, we were asked to make a 10 minute summary presentation, which was followed by a discussion between panellists and then with everyone present.
This approach meant that in one session the subject ranged widely from a hearty critique of capitalism to the consideration of a hypothetical group of people from another time and place who were occasional cannibals. And much more to recall and detail here.
One of the outcomes from the conference is planned to be the publication of an anthology of articles. So, stay tuned on that one.
More immediate, however, another outcome is the revival of Feminists for Animal Rights. For various reasons, FAR had become dormant as an organisation in the animal rights movement and beyond. Yesterday reminded me of the unique and special role FAR had in not only informing the debate about our relations with animals but also with the development of the animal rights movement. There is a new website, which includes copies of FAR’s newsletter and important articles as well as links to like-minded organisations. Please visit the FAR website to discover or renew yourself with the unique insight of what ecofeminism has to offer.
Here is an extract from my paper from yesterday which recalled the impact FAR made on me as my ideas about animal advocacy developed.
So, beginning in the mid-1970s with the publication of Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, which advanced a utilitarian argument in support of animals, and, then, in the mid-1980s with Tom Regan’s Case for Animal Rights, I saw the emergence of animal ethics as a key discipline. Regan challenged Singer’s utilitarian arguments by making the case that animals were subjects of a life and held intrinsically rights, including the right to respect, which could not be traded away in something like a utilitarian calculation. Thus began the development of animal ethics whereby one theory was challenged by another and my thinking of animal ethics developed accordingly. Then, in the early 1990s when I found myself unknowingly transitioning from animal activism to animal advocacy, I became intrigued with what was I was learning from my discovery of ecofeminism.
Two developments stand out. The first is the publication of Carol Adams’s Sexual Politics of Meat in 1990. The second is watching Marti Kheel and Carol Adams present Feminist for Animal Rights slide show (a copy of which is in my archive). They awakened in me new and intriguing ways to think about animal rights and animal advocacy. These experiences led me to conversations with, among others, Marti, Carol and Batya Bauman, and to other books and anthologies which I also found enlightening. I liked how ecofeminism presented animal exploitation within a progressive context alongside other social justice issues. I found it exciting to see written and visual analysis being made of ideas about masculinity and masculine behaviour. As a gay man who was intuitively uncomfortable with sexism but little understood the theories of feminism, they resonated well and deeply with me.
Presently, I am preparing to make a return visit to the USA from Thursday, November 8 to Saturday, December 1. This will be my second trip to the USA since leaving five years ago after living and working there for 20 years. I am looking forward to the trip very much. I grew to appreciate the USA notwithstanding its annoyances. Well, everywhere does have them, including the UK where I live now!
It will be a busy three week and three day schedule, which I would like to share with you. I would love to see everyone again who I enjoyed meeting during my time there. But, realistically, that won’t be possible. Nevertheless, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s see if we can schedule a telephone or Skype call while I’m there. Better still, please get in touch to see if it’s possible to meet in the places which I will be visiting or at the events where I will be speaking.
Conference Honoring the Ecofeminist Work of Marti Kheel
This conference from November 9 to 10 at Wesleyan University in Connecticut will celebrate the unique contribution Marti made in developing our understanding of animal ethics and, in particular, ecofeminism. I will be presenting as a member of a panel looking at the practice of advocacy. My focus will be on the impact ecofeminism made on my understanding of what form animal advocacy should take. The line up of speakers at this conference is truly outstanding. To single anyone out would be unfair to everyone else. I am truly honoured to be part of it.
New York City
I will be in NYC the week of November 12 and would like to see as many people as possible. Drop me an email. I will be spending Thanksgiving week with Sue Coe, which will hopefully involve lots of eating, walking the dogs in the woods and arguments about this and that.
The remainder of my trip is spent with my colleagues at the Animals and Society Institute, which is based in Ann Arbor, MI. I will be spending Monday, November 26 to Thursday, November 29 particularly with Bee Friedlander but I suspect there’s going to be a reunion of sorts of ASI folks taking place! On Monday, I will be joining Bee when she makes a presentation at the University of Michigan Dearborn and to the class of Fran Dolins, professor of psychology. Also during this time I will be speaking with ASI supporters to catch up and thank them for all that they do for the animals.
On Thursday evening, I am the featured speaker at the Troy Marriott where I will consider ‘What It Means to Care Deeply About Animals.’ (You can book here.)
My presentation is the pre-event to the annual Michigan Partnership for Animal Welfare conference. I will be speaking here, as well, and will be discussing ‘USA – UK: Who is Making More Progress in Animal Welfare?’ Provocative, eh!
I am also putting to the bed the manuscript for my first book which will be published by Lantern Books next year. It’s been a longtime coming. The only thing I want to say about it now is that it is my intention to return to the USA in 2013 to travel throughout the country to share with folks the ideas I explore in my book. This tour will be produced in partnership with the Animals and Society Institute. ASI is very dear to my heart because one of our objectives is to help further establish Human-Animal Studies. HAS is the study of our relationship with animals and theirs with us. I firmly believe moral and legal rights for animals will be made even more possible with new generations of academics and scientists informed in animal studies playing prominent roles in society. I also want to partner with other animal groups. Please get in touch if you’re interested.
This book, which started life as Animal Dharma, has gone through many changes. You can read earlier extracts here.
So, if we fail to connect this year, well, there’s always 2013!
On Saturday, September 29, I was lucky to be part of a walking group led by historian Hilda Kean which explored ‘Animal Pasts in London’s Landscape Today.’ As Hilda writes on her Web site,
Alongside our human ancestors animals have created the physical and cultural landscape of London as it exists today. In this walk of c. 2 hours we will look at traces left by cattle, horses, dogs and cats – and their human companions. Skirting the city, this walk will offer a different way of seeing London.
This video shows how we started at Smithfield Market. It began as a place where once live farmed animals were brought, bought, sold and killed to a meat market today. Hilda read out from Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist,
It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily yabove. All the pens in the centre of the large area, and as many temporary pens as could be crowded into the vacant space, were filled with sheep; tied up to posts by the gutter side were long lines of beasts and oxen, three or four deep.
Smithfield is on the borders of the City, whixh is a place of many histories. For example, St Bartholomew’s, the oldest hospital in London, was founded here by Rahere in 1123. It was a site of executions and Protestant martyrs were burnt to death, including William Wallace and Wat Tyler. The live trade in cattle from C12 to 1860s led ironically to the first legislation in the world to protect animals in 1822, when it became illegal to ‘wantonly and cruelly beat abuse, or ill treat any horse, mare, gelding, mule, ass, ox, cow , heifer, steer, sheep, or other cattle.’
On our way to Samuel Johnson’s house in Gough Square, Hilda pointed several key landmarks and buildings, which I will tease you with by saying, dear reader, you will need to join Hilda on a future tour to find out! Samuel Johnson, the famous essayist, lived in a house in Gough Square, between 1749 – 59, which was during the period when he published his famous dictionary. Dr Johnson opposed cruelty to animals, including vivisection which he defined as perpetrated ‘by a race of men that have practised tortures without pity.’ He also loved cats. One of them, Hodge, was described by Johnson as a ‘very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.’ Here is a link to an extract of a videoI shot of Hilda telling us about Hodge.
Later on the walk, we saw another statue dedicated to a cat. This was Sam. Sam, who was a real cat who lived with Patricia Penn, and is now commemorated in sculpture by John Fuller in Queen Square. Penny, as she was known, was a local campaigner and active in the residents association. Penny and Sam lived nearby. Apparently when Penny wanted to reveal something or spread an idea, she’d say ‘Sam heard … or Sam has had an idea.’ We also visited another statue dedicated to a cat, Humphrey. Click on this linkto watch Hilda explain who Humphrey was.
The last but one site we visited was what used to be the horse hospital but is now an art gallery on the lower floor and the contemporary wardrobe collection on the upper floor. The horse hospital is located at the rear of Russell Hotel in Herbrand Street and Colonnade. It was built by architect James Burton in 1797, who also built the Veterinary College in St Pancras and then redeveloped after 1860. Now a grade 11 listed arts centre, the interior still contains the moulded ramps and cobbled floor which enabled horses to walk from the bottom to be treated on the first floor. Apologies for this brief account of what was a fascinating two-hour plus walk through central London. Please visit Hilda’s Web site to learn more about her various projects in animal rights and other histories. Her book on the history of animal rights is also highly recommended. It is called ‘Animal Rights’ and is published by Reaktion. Please also check out this link. It is to a video of Hilda making a presentation at a recent conference of the International Society of Anthrozoology called, ‘The Changing Human-Feline Relationship in Britain c.1900-1950.’
Writing this on September 11, I cannot but help think of it as a sad day. Not only for everyone who was affected by the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, but also for the people in South America, when a military coup in Chile in 1973, deposed the democratically elected government. As difficult as it can be, life marches on relentlessly. We have to keep up and with its consequences. There is no option available here.
Even today, as I worked from home this morning, I followed the live developments of the Toro de la Vega in Tordesillas, which is in the province of Valladolid in central northern Spain.
The Toro de la Vega consisted of killing Volante, a five-year-old bull weighing 622 kilos, by spearing him to death with lances. The Toro is known in Spanish culture as a ‘tournament.’ But it’s impossible for me to think of it as that. It is violence toward animals.
Terrorism, regardless of the victim’s species, has no place in the world, if we want to think of ourselves as civilised.
Being in the fortunate position of working full-time for animal rights as long as I have, all too often every day is a sad day. Of course, I know I am not alone in feeling this. It’s true for everyone whose hearts and minds are open to animal cruelty and exploitation. Somehow, we cope with all the sadness, which is often softened by the joy we experience sharing our lives and homes with other animals. I like to think of these rescued animals as refugees. Citizens who are lost in a profound way who we must take in. Even if it means frequent cleaning of the litter box and walks when we’d rather have an early night.
Speaking of which, Shelly continues to settle in well. Her time spent in my office working with me is increasing. But she gets easily bored there, as my attention is focused on my work. Even though she can sleep for as long as she likes. And there’s always someone around who is happy to make a fuss of her. So, now, I spend some days, like today, working at home on the dining room table.
Now that we’re in September I have begun to focus more on planning my trip to the USA for the month of November. My itinerary includes New York, Washington, DC, and Ann Arbor, MI. I will be working closely with my colleagues, Ken Shapiro and Bee Friedlander, at the Animals and Society Institute. Also, I will be speaking at a conference at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT celebrating the life and work of ecofeminist philosopher Marti Kheel. In Troy, MI, I will be speaking as part of the ASI/Michigan Humane Society Speaker Series on ‘What Does It Mean to Care Deeply About Animals?’ The next day I’m also speaking at the Michigan Partnership for Animal Welfare on ‘USA/UK: Who is Making Progress and Why.’
Last week, I gave a paper, ‘Animal Rights: Moral Crusade or Social Movement?’, at the Universsity of Manchester which hosts MANCEPT, the annual forum in political theory and philosophy.
I also heard back from the folks at Lantern who read the manuscript of my first book. They made insightful comments and we’re presently working on making further improvements to the text. John Sorenson at Brock University also made positive comments about the chapter I submitted to the anthology he’s editing on critical animal studies.
So, perhaps, I shouldn’t feel so sad after all because, slowly but surely, all of us who working for animal liberation are making progress.
Well, it’s a long, long time
From May to December.
But the days grow short,
When you reach September.
And the autumn weather
Turns the leaves to gray
And I haven’t got time
For the waiting game.
Extract from September Song. Lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Music by Kurt Weill.
August always feel like the end of one year and the beginning of another. It’s a bit like New Year’s Eve. But it lasts a month. And without all the celebrations of one evening, which usually disappoint because of unrealistic expectations. August becomes a period of transition. Things past are completed. Things new started. Well, that’s the plan. And sometimes it even works!
For example, this month I sent the manuscript to my first book to Lantern for their review. Starting life as Animal Dharma but later renamed Not for Beasts, Lantern will give me their assessment soon. Of course, I’m anxious about what they will have to say. I make no assumption there is any guarantee they will publish it. Even though that’s my preference, as I greatly admire them. Nowadays, however, the technology is available for authors to publish themselves respectfully. So, I know, one way or another, Not for Beasts is going to see the light of day in 2013. Yay!
When I began the project more years ago than I care to admit, I realised some time into it I was writing two books. This revelation led me to dividing it into two. So, the first became my personal take on what it means to care deeply about animals. The second, which I call the Animal Rights Challenge, is a critical evaluation of the animal rights movement in the UK and USA between 1975 and 2010.
So, for the last few years, I have been writing and researching two books. Book one is now moved on from creation to the next stage of publication. This means that I can focus more on book two.
Last year John Sorenson at Brock University in Canada kindly invited me to submit a chapter for an anthology on critical animal studies he is editing. I am using this chapter, which I will be finished by the end of August, as the foundation to book two. Also, I gave a paper recently to conferences at universities in Barcelona, Exeter and Utrecht addressing the issues that I explore in book two. The chapter and talks were very helpful. They provided opportunities for people to comment on what I had to say. You can read my talk here. Please send me your thoughts at email@example.com. My paper will be included in the proceedings of the Exeter University conference currently being prepared by the organisers, Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society. The Sorenson anthology is scheduled for publication next year.
My opportunity to write books and give talks is made possible by my work as a consultant to such organisations as the Animals and Society Institute and Compassion In World Farming. This is in addition to the voluntary work I do for Minding Animals International and East Sussex Wildlife Rescue.
ASI, which I co-founded with Ken Shapiro, is a think tank which develops human-animal studies, addresses the relation between animal cruelty and other violence, and promotes the development of public policy.
I return to the USA in November to work on various ASI projects. I will be speaking at the annual conference of the Michigan Partnership for Animal Welfare and at a conference in honour of ecofeminist Marti Kheel at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
I advise Philip Lymbery, Compassion’s CEO, on matters related to editorial content (blogs, book reviews, interviews, etc.) which are used in various media locations.
I am excited to announce that this month I began work as a consultant to Joe Duckworth, Chief Executive at the League Against Cruel Sports, to advise him on matters related to their international campaigns.
So, August is a month of transition. On a personal level this included our adoption of Shelly, an eleven year old Jack Russell mix, who, as I write, is asleep in the armchair in my office. Watching sleeping dogs helps to focus the mind.
Nearly one week ago I returned to England from the Netherlands where I attended the second international Minding Animals conference at the University of Utrecht. Although I have been incredibly busy between then and now, the luxury of these few days distance offers me an opportunity to reflect and consider what it all meant to me. I’m grabbing sometime now before it’s too late to commit my thoughts to paper, er, virtual paper. Otherwise it will be too late. The memories and feelings will soon dissipate.
Let me be abundantly clear. As Deputy Chief Executive to Minding Animals International, this post reflects my personal views. Not the opinions of MAI or anyone else associated with the project. Having said that, I’m confident that some of my colleagues will agree with me here (and there). But it’s up to them to share their own thoughts. By the way, MAI Deputy CEO is a voluntary position. (As is CEO, which is held by Rod Bennison.) I paid to attend MAI2 myself. All the costs were met by me, except for conference registration, which was complementary.
I was unable to attend the first Minding Animals conference in Newcastle, Australia three years ago. Various reasons prevented me from going. Everyone I speak to who did describe it as a transformative event. Several reasons are given. The first event of its kind. The smooth organisation. The opportunity to meet at last with people who folks have been only in contact with via email. And so on.
MAI2 had a tough act to follow. During the intervening three years, there had been much progress in the development of Animal Studies and animal advocacy generally. Of course, Animal Studies is not a monolith. Even though it is still a relatively small and emerging academic discipline, I think of Animal Studies as an umbrella name for various strands of academic thinking that fall under it, including Human-Animal Studies, Critical Animal Studies and Animalia Studies. These differences are important but it’s not necessary for my purposes here to explore them.
Suffice it to say, folks representing the various strands of Animal Studies were present at MAI2. It is not surprising, therefore, that this caused some disagreement among the delegates over the program. I am not going to go into here but the organisation behind MAI2 was a complicated affair. The conference convenor, Tatjana Visak, worked incredibly hard to make sure the conference was a success. In my book, Tatjana is a hero whose attitude and professionalism were exemplary.
Nevertheless, as is perhaps to be expected with a new venture with 700 people in attendance, it was a hugely complicated meeting to organise. I know from my own experience of organising lobbies on Parliament, workshops, conferences, demonstrations and much else besides, that sometimes things simply do not go as they planned. But there were also somethings that were planned that I disagreed with. As I say, the organisation behind MAI2 was a complicated affair. In any event, everyone’s feedback was considered, noted and will be used to help improve future MAI events and activities.
So, which thoughts about MAI2 linger with me one week later?
First, the confirmation that Animal Studies is alive and well and growing as an academic enterprise. It is vibrant with a kaleidoscope of perspectives, disciplines, interests and possibilities. Given how our confused and complex our relationship is with other animal, the inter-disciplinary nature of Animal Studies is not only necessary but exciting.
Second, the development of political theory and animal rights. As Ken Shapiro, my colleague at the Animals and Society Institute pointed out, it was necessary for the modern animal rights movement to devote a chapter in its formative stage to animal ethics. This was needed to lay a foundation of moral understanding which, in turn, facilitated a further stage of political theory and animal rights. The plenary session with Robert Garner and Will Kymlicka was fascinating. Together with Siobhan O’Sullivan and others developing political theory and animal rights, I am encouraged that the animal rights movement might yet have a chance of making animal rights a mainstream political issue.
Third, the importance of conferences in of themselves as opportunities to meet and reacquaint ourselves with each other as well as indulge in time and space to think, chat, argue and learn.
Finally, Utrecht is a stunningly impressive city. This was my first visit. It appears to be a very civilised city. But watch out for the bicyclists.
Sue Coe is, quite simply, my favourite living artist.
For me, her work sits proudly along a continuum which includes George Grosz, Otto Dix, Kathe Kollwitz, on the one hand, and El Greco, Thomas Bewick and Goya, on the other. Her creativity rightfully stands on its own merit and how she skilfully uses it to explore social injustice, including their interrelationships.
Her latest book, Cruel, examines our instrumental use of animals for food. A great introduction to Sue and her work is to watch this video of a talk she gave recently. This is what The New York Times had to say about her recent related exhibit and The Wall Street Journal.
In March I spoke at a conference organised by Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society at the University of Exeter. I shared the platform with Lee McConnell from Northumbria University School of Law. Here’s a video of the session, which was chaired by author Mark Gold. Click here for a copy of my paper ‘Animal Rights: Moral Crusade or Political Movement?‘