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Archive for the ‘Animal Rights Movement’ Category

Watch My Growl Presentation

September 15th, 2014 No comments

The presentation that I made at the recent International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg is now available to watch. It was called ‘Animal Witness’ at the conference but is given the name ‘Why Animals and Their Well-Being Matter to Us’ on YouTube but more importantly it reflects the essence of what I have to say in Growl.

 

To watch my presentation from the IARC 2013, please click here.

To learn where I will be presenting in the future, please visit Events on this website.

For more information about the IARC, please click here.

 

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Spying on Animal Rights

September 3rd, 2014 1 comment
A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

There’s something fascinating about the so-called Cambridge spies: Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Kim Philby. They all came from the upper middle class and met at Cambridge University in the 1930s. They went onto hold various powerful positions in society while acting as double agents for the U.K. and U.S.S.R. or worked in the Foreign Office or for the Windsors as the Surveyor of the King’s Pictures.

I’m not delusional about the severe damage the Cambridge spies caused to Britain and its security as well as the deaths of many hundreds of people that their espionage resulted in. Nonetheless, I cannot but help find appealing the heroic, romanticised view of the Cambridge spies as they’re presented in, for example, the plays of Alan Bennett (e.g., ‘An Englishman Abroad’ about Burgess and ‘A Question of Attribution’ about Blunt) and in the telly series ‘Cambridge Spies.’ Not quite the same thing but I keep promising myself to read John le Carre’s spy novels but have yet to get round to doing so.

A book I have just finished is A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre (Bloomsbury), a writer and editor on Murdoch’s The Times.

What makes this book different from the many others about Philby is that it’s about his friendships and particularly with Nicholas Elliott, who, like Philby, was a spy in MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service. What’s fascinating is how Philby was able to hide his spying for the Russians from his wives and closest of colleagues and friends who all knew him intimately. There is, of course, a lot more to say about all of this but this briefest of descriptions will have to suffice.

There’s one aspect to the Philby story that stands out above all others, which made me very angry as I read the book. Philby was protected by his class because it couldn’t be possible that ‘one of them’ could be a traitor. This privileged status ensured that for years Philby, while in our employ, spied for the Soviets unchallenged. 

Read more…

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Almost Direct Action Everywhere

August 19th, 2014 1 comment

I was hoping for more from reading The Evolution of Veganism: Is Empowered Activism the Next Stage? by Wayne Hsiung, founding organiser of Direct Action Everywhere (DAE).

His three conclusions are:

  1. The first is that we have to move beyond simply creating an environment that accepts and tolerates vegans.
  2. The second is that a confident and assertive approach — playing offense rather than defense — is key to our movement’s growth.
  3. What we need, if our movement is to grow, is more and stronger activists.

Now, of course, I could quibble with each one of these three points but it’s the absence of a much larger point that I find troubling: the exclusive reliance upon individual action to make institutional change while ignoring the democratic, political process.

Yes, which vegan wouldn’t want to have to campaign for an environment that embraces us?

Yes, haven’t vegans been playing offence since they became, er, vegan?

Yes, of course, we need more and stronger activists.

As I discuss in my book, Growl, I do not believe everyone is going to go vegan, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; nonetheless, the reality is that not everyone will care about animals as much as we do. Moreover, not everyone will understand animal rights within a progressive agenda of social change.

This is why we need to think beyond animal rights as an optional lifestyle choice. Yes, I agree with DAE about what we do to animals is violence. Nonviolence is one of my four key values in animal rights. We need to challenge the institutions that perpetuate the violence toward animals as the social norm. Yes, their campaign targeting is Chipotle is fine, and I wish them every success in all that they do.

But there will never be enough individual vegans to challenge the thousands if not millions of enterprises like Chipotle across the planet.

Of course, we must try, and that is essentially what animal rights activism is all about: fomenting the same change in others we experienced in ourselves whereby we have a personal transformative moment when animal cruelty is no longer hidden from view, and consequently we boycott products of animal exploitation by going cruelty-free, vegan.

But individual change will only go so far. We need also institutional change.

We can no longer naively believe individual vegans and animal advocacy organisations will change the world.

We have to work within the mainstream politics to embed the values of animal rights within their culture. They are the people and the organisations who we elect to represent us, form governments, and pass laws.

In short, the single greatest challenge we face is making animal rights a mainstream political issue.

Of course, anarchists and those who have written off the political process will disagree with this premise. There’s nothing I can say or do to change their minds. We will just have to agree to disagree.

Take note, however, of how gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people organised not only as a social movement (coincidentally, as disparate as ours) and worked within political parties across the world to achieve significant lifestyle and political change as a legislative issue.

As public sentiment moved to accept those who were previously considered as outsiders, informed and sympathetic public policy makers and elected representatives fought for and won legislation protecting them, thereby bringing together public education and public policy into legislation and its enforcement. While there’s still work to be done, G/L/B/T folks presently enjoy legal protection as never before. Further, individuals who do not respect these laws are liable for prosecution.

A case in point is Britain’s Hunting Act 2004. Now, I know is far from perfect; however, it had the effect of criminalising those who previously enjoyed the protection of the law when they legally chased and killed wild animals for fun, and it reinvented in part the role of hunt saboteurs as hunt monitors to help ensure the law is enforced.

This combined strategy of public/political and individual/institutional is the message that I look for from not only DAE but also the entire social movement for animals. So far, I don’t hear it very much.

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World Day for Laboratory Animals 1984

April 23rd, 2014 No comments
In London's Trafalgar Square on World Day for Laboratory Animals in 1984.

In London’s Trafalgar Square on World Day for Laboratory Animals in 1984.

Thirty years ago in London’s Trafalgar Square, I was the lead organiser of a national demonstration to recognise World Day for Laboratory Animals, when I was Campaigns Officer at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.

The protest was at that point in time the world’s largest animal rights demonstration with nine thousand people, with the greatest number ever involved–six hundred–in street theatre.

Under BUAV’s hallmark slogan of ‘Every Six Seconds an Animal Dies in a British Laboratory’, we constructed a large doorway, which was painted to represent an entrance to a vivisection laboratory. We dressed a couple of people as vivisectors, with bloodstained white coats, and stationed them by the doorway. From the plinth at the Square, we announced that for the ninety minutes of speeches and music a tape loop would play the sound of a bell chiming every six seconds. Each time the bell rang, large numbers were turned on the stage to count to six hundred while one of the vivisectors took a protester through the door, ‘killed’ them in front of the plinth, and laid them on the ground as dead animals. Eventually, the area was filled with 600 ‘dead animals’.

At the 1984 World Day for Laboratory Animals demonstration in London's Trafalgar Square, I help Sue Croshaw speak out as a disabled person against animal experimentation by holding the microphone stand.

At the 1984 World Day for Laboratory Animals demonstration in London’s Trafalgar Square, I help Sue Croshaw speak out as a disabled person against animal experimentation by holding the microphone stand.

This protest was part of a coalition, the Mobilisation of Animals, which opposed the government’s proposed legislation to replace the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. The coalition consisted of Animal Aid, Scottish Anti-Vivisection Society, National Anti-Vivisection Society, and BUAV. We opposed the proposed law because it wouldn’t even ban particularly egregious examples of animal experimentation—such as using animals for testing the negative effects of tobacco and alcohol, and the toxicity of cosmetics, as well as employing animals in research for military and psychological purposes. These experiments had been the focus of the 1979 and 1983 General Election Coordinating Committee for Animal Protection campaigns I helped to lead. We organised a lobby of Parliament, which was attended by seven hundred people, and a rally, emceed by myself, with sympathetic Members of Parliament of all political parties, and others.

Although the government ignored our demands on the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, I believe BUAV and its companion organisations succeeded in highlighting what needed to be done when the new legislation was enforced. For example, the U.K. government subsequently banned the testing of cosmetics on animals in 1997 and the LD50 oral toxicity test in 2001. In 2003, the European Union agreed to a membership-wide ban on cosmetics animal testing by 2013.

The Talon Conspiracy, an online archive preserving the history of protest movements for animal rights and environmentalism, offers an opportunity to read back copies of BUAV’s ‘campaigning newspaper,’ The Liberator, which I co-edited. Here’s the link to the issue which included a report on the Trafalgar Square demonstration.

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IARC 2013

September 15th, 2013 No comments
The IARC 2013 was held at the Kulturfabrik that was originally a slaughterhouse. Here, we look up at the ceiling to see the large hooks that moved the carcasses along the production line.

The IARC 2013 was held at the Kulturfabrik that was originally a slaughterhouse. Here, we look up at the ceiling to see the large hooks that moved the carcasses along the production line.

The International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg is an impressive event. It attracts animal advocates from across the world and produces an impressive program of speakers. It is also well organised and comprehensive and welcoming. Generally, the attendees are younger activists. They are thoughtful and passionate.

The conference is held at the Centre Culturel Kulturfabrik Esch which was formally a slaughterhouse and is now an arts complex with a restaurant, galleries, offices, and studios. I was not aware of this until I arrived and it was pointed out to me. So, attending the conference becomes a bizarre but creepy positive experience in that animal rights was being discussed inside an old slaughterhouse.

I was honoured with making the opening plenary presentation. I decided to present the paper I had written for the academic journal, Relations. This is because the paper, ‘Animal rights: Moral crusade or political movement?’, summarised my critique of the animal rights movement. Other presenters also addressed related issues about the movement’s ideology and strategy.

The conference organisers have opened a page in YouTube where it is possible to watch many if not all of the presentations made. These recordings are a valuable resource into the different views and perspectives made about animal rights and its ideology and strategy.

You can watch my presentation here. Please share with me your thoughts and comments on my thesis that the animal rights movement should be less like a moral crusade and more like a political movement. Thank you!

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Animals in the Public Arena

May 2nd, 2012 1 comment

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?

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In Praise of Undercover Investigations

February 14th, 2012 1 comment

In praise of undercover investigations by animal rights advocates, including the latest by Animal Equality in a pig farm in England this weekend.

One of the strongest characteristics of the animal rights movement is our relentless commitment to expose animal cruelty hidden by the animal industrial complex which profits mightily by its exploitation of animals.

If there’s money to be made, there’s cruelty to be had. As novelist and essayist Brigid Brophy wrote in her article, ‘Unlived Life – a manifesto against factory farming,’

Whenever people say ‘we mustn’t be sentimental,’ you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, ‘we must be realistic,’ they mean they are going to make money out of it.

The more the animal rights movement demonstrates itself as a credible actor witnessing and documenting what happens to animals in circuses, zoos, factory farms, research laboratories and wherever else they are used, the more the animal industrial complex is put on the defensive and held to account.

Further, the more the public, who I believe respond favourably to these exposes and see them as evidence of indefensible actions, brings pressure to bear on the animal industrial complex to change their ways. Consequently, the animal rights movement will earn increasingly support from those who we seek to influence, including persuading them to go vegan.

Over at the Grumpy Vegan I recognise 30 years ago today the British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, and its front page report on a direct action raid on an animal research laboratory. Taking the long-term view, these actions by the Animal Liberation Front and others are being replaced with undercover exposes and what are known as ‘open rescues’ by increasing numbers of organisations throughout the world.

This must be surely a most welcome trend where our witnessing and documenting are recognised for the value they provide to society in what is done in our name. Further, these actions put the animal industrial complex on the defensive. They provide evidence to demonstrate the need for society to become aware of our animal use. Consequently, the need for the implementation and enforcement of effective regulations and legislation making visible our treatment of animals and eventually replacing it with non-animal methods.

Further, if the animal rights movement can frame the case we make for animals as part of a progressive agenda of social change and not as a competition in human interests, the greater the chances in us succeeding in our mission.

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2011 Animal Rights Image of the Year

December 20th, 2011 2 comments

The Animal Equality inspiring protest in Puerta del Sol, Madrid.

The Spanish animal rights organisation, Igualdad Animal (Animal Equality), bring attention to animal exploitation with a dramatic protest on International Day for Animal Rights on December 10.

Four hundred activists from several countries each hold in their hands carcasses of farmed animals (e.g., chickens, pigs, lambs) although one is holding the body of a dog. The protestors stand silently in the organisation’s t-shirts in ordered rows.

The image of the supplicating protestors asks us to see how we treat animals but also there is a sense of forgiveness about what we do to them. The protestors hold out the dead animals in supplication demanding the viewer to see the responsibility of our actions. We are not made to feel guilty. Although we should. Nor are we confronted with self-righteous indignation, which is all too frequently the currency of the animal rights protest.

Instead, we are asked politely to stop, look and think. In doing so, we participate in the protest rather than passively observe it. There is a shared complicity with the protestors. No one is innocent. We are all responsible for animal exploitation. We must all act. We could be standing there, too, with dead animals lying in our outstretched arms. Most likely for many, they are standing there with dead animals in their shopping baskets.

Convocatoria 10 de Diciembre 2011 – Igualdad Animal / Animal Equality from IgualdadAnimal | AnimalEquality on Vimeo.

Compare and contrast the simple sophistication of this protest with those which are easy and unimaginative. Generally, they make their point at the expense of someone else, including body size, economic class, gender and race. There is no understanding, even recognition, of the intersection of oppressions. Instead, there is the excuse that ‘it’s for the animals’ which, somehow, magically makes possible any action permissible.

Of course, their objective is to make the link between our bodies and those of the animals we consume. After all, according to Darwin and today’s dominant culture of material science and evolution, we are all of us animals. Embodying animal protest with our bodies may make us feel that we are making the point, even becoming ‘one’ with the animals’ exploitation, and, surely these protests are successful in this regard. But I remain unconvinced as to the effectiveness of the message and what is trying to be said. All too often, it is all about manufacturing personal transformative moments when people recognise for the first time animal exploitation and start the journey down the path toward vegetarian, vegan, cruelty-free living. This is why the animal rights movement is more like an evangelist cause rather than a sophisticated political initiative treading the corridors of power.

One unexplored aspect is that with some of these actions there is unwittingly an implication that the animals would do to us (if they could) what we do to them. The ‘world turned upside down’ has a strong tradition in art and agitprop but its message must be used with care and respect. Otherwise, all too often, it becomes simply a gratuitous protest lacking any real meaning other than an invitation to voyeurism. Of course, we want to people to look and what are we inviting them to see? These intentionally sensationalist protests border on the pornographic. Attention is drawn to the people in the protest. The animals are absent. This is one reason why the Animal Equality protest is so powerful. The animals are far from absent. They are being held up respectfully for us to see. It is a simple evocation of how we treat animals. Further, it reminds me of the contrast between anonymous violent and illegal actions of some protestors with those who use open rescues as an open, nonviolent and turning upside down the legality of animal status to witness our instrumental use of animals. With the former, the people are the story. Whereas   in the latter, it is the animals, which is, of course, how it should be.

Igualdad Animal is to be congratulated for staging a moving and dignified indictment of our inhumanity to animals in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.

ADDENDUM

Igualdad Animal released two additional films of the protest. Here they are:

 

International Animal Rights Day 2010 (Spain) from IgualdadAnimal | AnimalEquality on Vimeo.

Día Internacional de los Derechos Animales 2011 || Igualdad Animal from IgualdadAnimal | AnimalEquality on Vimeo.

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Wall Street Animals

October 10th, 2011 No comments

My Animals and Society Institute colleague, Bee Friedlander, writes on the ASI Diary (blog) about the protest underway on Wall Street.

Anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock this past week has heard about “Occupy Wall Street,” a movement that seemingly has come out of nowhere, beginning in New York City a few weeks ago, and now spreading each day to more cities small and large across the United States. Is it the Arab Spring come to the U.S.? An incarnation of the 1960s student movement? A progressive version of the Tea Party?

Bee goes on to consider the presence of a concern for animals as part of this protest, including as an integral part of an emerging social movement with broad objectives challenging the present social and economic norms. Bee quotes from various people involved with and commenting on this initiative, including yours truly. She concludes,

A core belief of the Animals and Society Institute is that institutional change for animals and future success of the movement depend on our ability to position animal issues in the arena of public policy, including action in the mainstream political arena. Perhaps the activists will come to see the same is true for the other worthy causes they espouse.

She speaks for me in this regard.

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Some Thoughts on Abolition and Regulation

August 3rd, 2011 5 comments

A recent New York Times oped was brought to my attention by a long standing friend and colleague. She situated it within the context of the debate surrounding the announcement by The HSUS and United Egg Producers, a debate which brings into focus the perennial issue among most if not all social movements: regulation vs. abolition.

The understanding behind The HSUS and UEP wanting to make such an agreement is generally to be welcomed. There are, of course, aspects to it that give me considerable concern; however, I wasn’t a participant in the discussions and can only comment as an observer. Nevertheless, I am a participant in the campaign against factory farming since the mid-1970s and subsequently witnessed its development in the UK and US. Of course, on the face of it, banning cages for egg laying chickens is, for a vegan like me or anyone opposed generally to factory farming, as straightforward as anything can be. Nevertheless, I have come to appreciate the complexity of achieving this simple change is considerable. Significant progress has been made in the European Union which is scheduled to outlaw the battery cage by January 1, 2012. Now, this ban is for the barren battery cage. In other words, a cage is a cage is a cage. Alternative so-called enriched cages are proffered as an alternative, which is something I — and Compassion In World Farming whose lead I follow in such issues — reject as a satisfactory alternative. [And, coincidentally, The HSUS.] In short, if people are going to eat eggs, well, they’ve got to eat less and only eat those from chickens in organic, free range, nonlethal conditions. But, as a vegan, I, of course, don’t recommend anyone to eat eggs, anyway.

And herein lies the tension between abolition and regulation. Much ink has been spilt on this purported conflict not only in the animal rights movement but also in other social movements. For example, Gary L. Francione and Robert Garner explore this issue thoroughly in The Animal Rights Debate (Columbia University Press, 2010). One of the more nuanced reviews of this book is by Ben Mepham.

Turning to The New York Times oped, “Obama and His Discontents,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, I was struck (prompted by my correspondent) by the comparison between the animal welfare/rights debate and the present American political conflict between Democrats and the Republicans and their even more extreme political sidekicks, which is all framed within the context of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — a compromise that freed only the slaves in rebel territory, as Coates notes.

Coates concludes about President Barack Obama that he is

of course, is not an activist but a politician held accountable by a broad national electorate. He is thus charged with the admittedly difficult task of nudging the country forward, even as he reflects it. That mission necessitates appreciating the art of compromise, but not fetishizing it.

Now, I can be as guilty as the next person of reading into something that which I wish to read. Nevertheless, I read this op ed to say that abolitionists and pragmatists must work together in order to achieve any change. This is the message I’ve been saying for decades. See, for example, my chapter, “Utopian Visions and Pragmatic Politics,” in Robert Garner’s anthology, Animal Rights (Macmillan, 1996).

Success for any social movement, including animal rights, is predicated on balancing utopian visions with the pragmatic politics. It is simply the nature of how things get done. Neither one nor the other are entirely right or wrong. They are both needed. It is the fetishising of either that becomes problematic. It is a smart social movement that is capable of deploying both in creative and innovative as well as in a politically sophisticated and smart way.

I guess what all this boils down to is how one chooses to measure success or accomplishment. Further, there’s the context. I have more anxieties about animal rights groups treading the regulatory path when they proclaim themselves to be, er, an animal rights group. Conversely, this is why I’m comfortable with CIWF and how they implement this mission to end factory farming. Compassion was never an animal rights group. It was started by a farmer who was concerned about factory farming. It’s mission is to end factory farming. Whereas a group like Farm Sanctuary, say, which positions itself as a vegan, animal rights group, has, I believe, a conflict of interest with being involved with regulatory issues. On the other hand, HSUS is not and never will be an animal rights group. Therefore, it does not have issue with being involved with regulatory issues. The trick to success is getting these groups and as many as possible of all the others to play as musicians in a complex orchestra challenged with playing music outside of their repertoire.

There is a further point to make about the ideology of welfare and rights. They each work in some contexts but not in all. For example, as philosophy and as strategy, they both work but with some inherent challenges, particularly when the margins are pushed. In the mainstream political context, however, their values as ideologies informing what could and should be done politically in the terms of laws passed is even more challenging. It is much more difficult to implement the rights ideology (than, say, the welfare ideology) in the present mainstream political climate. So, with rare exceptions, compromise (i.e., welfare) is almost inevitable. But this should not mean we should not work in the mainstream political arena. We must. What other option is there available? I simply do not buy into the argument to work exclusively for vegan education. I am realistic enough (and, admittedly, cynical enough) to recognise not everyone is capable of or wants to go vegan. People still smoke cigarettes even when they know they are a waste of money and will most likely cause diseases that may kill them. So, what is to be done? Make meat, eggs and dairy a prescribed substance like tobacco and other legal and illegal addictive substances? Maybe. Maybe not. I am not sure on this one. The jury is still out for me. There is mileage, however, to position meat, eggs and dairy like tobacco and alcohol in the terms of their societal cost and instituting regulatory state actions to restrict their sale and consumption. But the vegan abolitionists will not like that strategy as they are not prohibitions. Our history documents well enough that prohibitions do not have a very successful track record.

In fact, I do not think the animal rights movement has tried hard enough to work within the political mainstream. If we were to become, as a social justice movement, less obsessed with personal transformative moments and lifestyle purity and more sophisticated about the political, economic and social power which keeps the animal industrial complex in place AND understand this within the larger political, social justice context, well, then, I think we might get somewhere.

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