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  1. gretel
    gretel August 26, 2009 at 12:52 pm |

    Well put, Renee. Although I consider myself a believer in AR, I am loathe to preach my beliefs or join an organization that does. I feel that when people become so enamored with one issue they, as you say, become myopic, and forget that reality may be different for each individual.

  2. Lauren O
    Lauren O August 26, 2009 at 1:01 pm |

    I’m with you 100%. I think it’s a logical contradiction to say that something is sexist/racist/whateverist because it’s “dehumanizing” and then say that animals are the same as humans. If animals and humans are exactly the same, then “dehumanizing” things aren’t insulting – and I think dehumanizing things are very obviously insulting.

    Your points about how this tactic is used against people of color are great. I also bristle at some of the comparisons between animals and women used by some animal rights activists. For example, I’m sure that cows don’t like having their calves taken away from them too early, and that we should take measures to prevent that from happening, but I find it really offensive to compare that to humans having their children taken away from them. Do you really think a cow can possibly suffer as much as the enslaved women whose children were/are sold away from them?

  3. Tracy
    Tracy August 26, 2009 at 1:15 pm |

    You will find that animal-rights activists (Peta’s ad wizards notwithstanding) believe in human rights, gay rights, civil rights, etc.

    We can treat animals humanely — ie. by not eating them — and still care about our fellow human beings.

  4. squoggle
    squoggle August 26, 2009 at 1:18 pm |

    The claim being made is that all human beings are animals, or the moral equals of animals. Now, that might strike someone as offensive or insensitive on the grounds that members of their ethnic group have been – and sometimes still are – regarded as animals (or their moral equals) as part of a strategy of moral devaluation, but only if that person failed to pay due attention to quite obvious details of the claims and arguments beings put forward. As such, she has only herself to blame.

    Quite apart from the fact that the claim of animal liberationists encompasses all human beings, their claim about moral equality is intended not as a means of devaluing human beings generally, but of indicating that the moral status of animals is much, much higher than is commonly thought. Any resemblance to racism, past or present, is purely coincidental, and cannot be blamed upon animal liberationists, whose struggle against speciesism is the morally required extension of those ideas about equality, and its bases, upon which our opposition to racism, sexism, and homophobia is based.

  5. squoggle
    squoggle August 26, 2009 at 1:18 pm |

    The claim being made is that all human beings are animals, or the moral equals of animals. Now, that might strike someone as offensive or insensitive on the grounds that members of their ethnic group have been – and sometimes still are – regarded as animals (or their moral equals) as part of a strategy of moral devaluation, but only if that person failed to pay due attention to quite obvious details of the claims and arguments being put forward. As such, she has only herself to blame.

    Quite apart from the fact that the claim of animal liberationists encompasses all human beings, their claim about moral equality is intended not as a means of devaluing human beings generally, but of indicating that the moral status of animals is much, much higher than is commonly thought. Any resemblance to racism, past or present, is purely coincidental, and cannot be blamed upon animal liberationists, whose struggle against speciesism is the morally required extension of those ideas about equality, and its bases, upon which our opposition to racism, sexism, and homophobia is based.

  6. Thomas
    Thomas August 26, 2009 at 1:32 pm |

    squoggle, way to be a shining example of what so many of us don’t like.

    “but only if that person failed to pay due attention to quite obvious details of the claims and arguments beings put forward. As such, she has only herself to blame.”

    Seriously? Someone points out that your worldview comes from a privileged place that offends her and you lash out and tell the woman of color that she can’t read? Seriously?

    Are you trying to be offensive, or are you just so myopic that you can’t tell when you are offensive?

  7. r.t.
    r.t. August 26, 2009 at 1:34 pm |

    I believe that there exists logical structures where animals are the same as people and that animals are different from people. What matters is what moral and emotional framework one chooses to use, as the logical structures could exist without the emotional and moral structures.

    I am an autistic person and choose to believe, as non-objectively as the other side would choose their beliefs, yet backing up my irrational, emotional, and moral framework with a supportive logical structure as do they, that I, as a human being am not an animal, not as in that I am not a biological organism, but in the way that I am not something other than human.

    I have been called a bigot and hypocrite for my position that states that I am human and am different from animals, but as a mentally disabled person I must fight against neurotypicals to “prove” that I am human and take great offense, even at animal right’s activists, who suggest that I am not. Especially when they use mentally disabled human beings as part of an argument to protect animals.

    I do consider the protection of animals a worthy endeavor to a degree, but I cannot morally consider an animal the same as a human being.

  8. r.t.
    r.t. August 26, 2009 at 1:35 pm |

    edit: logical structures couldn’t exist without emotional and moral structures.

  9. ripley
    ripley August 26, 2009 at 1:42 pm |

    squoggle, you are focusing on the intent of the speaker as if that is what racism is about. Racism is not about what people intend, it’s about the effect of what they do. Does it benefit from and reinforce racial hierarchies & white supremacy? then it’s racist.

    Renee’s post clearly explains how PETA’s campaigns that rely on equating humans and animals differently affect people of color, as well as relying on stereotypes that disempower people of color. to argue that’s not what they intend is missing her point entirely, and also disrespecting her by ignoring her account of the painful effects of PETA ads on people of color.

    But maube it isn’t a mistake, because on closer reading you actually say she has only herself to blame for the effects of PETA’s ads -what, she has only herself to blame for her carefully & explicitly described atmosphere and history of racist imagery in our society?

    On what planet do you spend most of your time, that you could say a person of color has only herself to blame for being affected negatively by racist imagery? good grief.

  10. peanutbutter
    peanutbutter August 26, 2009 at 2:12 pm |

    Renee’s analysis is spot on here and for that reason I don’t go on about how humans are the same as animals.

    However, how we (“we” being the dominant cultural milieu in which we all live) treat animals is of a piece with how we treat women and POC and thus it’s worth analysing and changing how we view women/POC/animals. Peta — all its claims notwithstanding — is performing its analysis in a manner completely rooted in our sexist, racist, and bigoted culture and thus stands as a shining example of how *not* to perform such analysis and/or self examination…o.O

  11. charlotte
    charlotte August 26, 2009 at 2:23 pm |

    “Do you really think a cow can possibly suffer as much as the enslaved women whose children were/are sold away from them?”

    Actually, I do. They may suffer in a different language that we can’t or choose not to understand, but yes. Compassion doesn’t stop at the barn door.

  12. adelle
    adelle August 26, 2009 at 2:52 pm |

    While I usually scoff at the attempts of PETA and other uber-fanatic AR groups, I have never really considered their portrayals or descriptions of animals as dehumanizing. Perhaps my background disallows that. I’ve always felt the intent was to humanize animals and shame people into supporting their cause. That’s always what has pissed me off so much about them. I abhor any group that uses fear tactics, violence, and shame to get their messages across even if it is usually for a good cause. The hypocrisy of the their actions are also infuriating. One minute they say that animals are people too, then they tell people they are monsters for eating a cheeseburger. Which is it?

    That all being said, I absolutely believe that the majority of the animals PETA and groups like them are trying to liberate, are probably being inhumanely treated. Morally, I personally feel that no creature, human or otherwise, deserves to suffer. Animals may not feel emotional pain the same way humans do, but they still feel something and it’s our responsibility as human beings to protect them. There are just better ways to go about it.

  13. bfp
    bfp August 26, 2009 at 2:57 pm |

    I think it’s beside point, really. Peta really really doesn’t care what the answer to this question is because it is not interested in destabilizing structures of power that even enslave animals, really. if it was, it would be working to *create* new structures of power that weren’t dependent on assembly line capitalism where literally ANYTHING is up for consumption. All it’s really doing is encouraging people to become more aware consumers–literally and figuratively. If people consume plastic instead of animal–that is a victory. so the tactics they use to achieve that really doesn’t matter to them. they are influencing *choices* , not beliefs.

    I think the more productive question to ask is “are animals a part of human communities?” When you look at it that way, the only answer possible is yes. And the fact that so many animals that *used* to be a part of our communities are no longer because of extinction or imprisoning through zoos or factory farms is an important and integral part of understanding “liberation.” We used to be a dependent on animal survival as they were on ours.

    and the fact that we are no longer speaks to a whole HOST of problems that we haven’t been able to figure out without the presence of the animals directly centered in our conversations. For example, how can we begin to talk about water management without asking “what do dolphins (or crabs or sharks or any other marine animal) need?” HOw can we begin to talk about control of malaria without asking “where are all the snakes and frogs?” So, in short, we can’t be “liberated” unless animals are *also liberated*–and in this sense, animal recovery becomes as important as liberating animals that are already alive and re-integrating animals into their natural habitats becomes just as important as “what you eat” or “is your new car totally vegan?”

    See what I mean? If we stop the hierarchical debate over who is more worthy of life and focus instead on how animals and humans are interdependent on each other and need each other in really intimate, interesting, confusing and amazing ways–we really pull the rug out from under the violently racist , transphobic, misogynistic, nationalistic, homophbic, fatphoic bullshit arguments that have no intention in changing a damn thing except how you spend your money.

  14. shah8
    shah8 August 26, 2009 at 3:07 pm |

    Animal rightism tends to be a mechanism for delegitimizing social challenge.

    It does this by refusing to aknowlege conflict and conflicting needs, implicitly enforcing a status alignment. If you are privileged, you have the power to oppress other *humans* in order such that your conduct with *animals* are minimized or beneficial. Humans are animals, true, but our relationship between humans and our relationships with animals are vastly different–with our ability to reliably communicate. Ignoring that difference is to mute other people. Which many people in the movement like.

    Environmentalism also tends to be a huge sinner with this sort of thing as well.

  15. Geek
    Geek August 26, 2009 at 3:40 pm |

    I agree with Renee completely.

    I also think that maybe the instinct that impels us to be speciesist (favoring of one’s own genetically similar creatures) factors into human based negative -isms.

    As someone in a race (group) that is privileged, I can afford to say I see myself as equal to animals*. Because of the long history of using species preference of humans to dehumanize non-white-people, POC can’t do this, and it should not be done to them. It just encourages someone who’s white to think of a POC as even MORE different than they’re already socialized to believe.

    PETA tactics to try and make us see animals as closer to humans are also a big Fail for animal rights groups, unless they are using middle-aged white men. If someone already thinks of POC or women (PETA uses women a lot) as subhuman, then no animals are going to be “saved”.

    *and I do. I’m aware that I believe this from my position of safety and privilege.

  16. anna.licious
    anna.licious August 26, 2009 at 3:43 pm |

    I’m a former vegetarian/vegan; I supported PETA briefly during my teens. However, as I’ve grown older and become more aware of the world and perspectives other than my own fairly privileged one, the tactics taken and arguments made by many animal rights groups (such as PETA) strike me as uglier and uglier every year.

    Thank you for posting this. It resonates.

  17. EKSwitaj
    EKSwitaj August 26, 2009 at 3:48 pm |

    I’m a vegan and, as an Aspie, a member of another group that has often been compared to animals in degrading ways. My perspective is that there are basically two ways to make animals morally equivalent to humans: you can degrade humans or you can raise up animals. Using comparisons to oppressed groups the way PeTA does is almost guaranteed to do the former while also reinforcing current hierarchies. As BFP points out above, PeTA clearly has no interest in challenging such structures. (Why would they? These are what allow them to live relatively privileged lives AND claim the moral high ground, after all.)

  18. Eccentric Vegan
    Eccentric Vegan August 26, 2009 at 3:52 pm |

    “Do you really think a cow can possibly suffer as much as the enslaved women whose children were/are sold away from them?”

    That’s not the question.

    The question is: Should either women or animals suffer?
    The question is: Can you stop their suffering?

    If I could simply switch my diet from hamburgers to beans and rice and thus spare the lives and suffering of enslaved women, I’d do it.

    We have the power to spare animals suffering. It’s really very easy. Just trade out the hamburgers for beans. Switch out the chicken for tofu. And opt for meat substitutes instead of fish.

    Get real, get honest, get vegan.
    Make a difference for animals, the planet, and your health today.

  19. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl August 26, 2009 at 4:22 pm |

    (HUGE caveat: I am neither an AR activist nor a WOC)

    Six of one / half a dozen of another, and isn’t this argument awfully familiar?

    When WOC tried to bring their concerns to the table in the larger women’s movement, they were shunted aside, and told that their problems as minority women were secondary to the needs of women (here assumed to be white and upper-middle class) as a whole. White feminists also felt a deep resentment that various civil rights advances for minorities came before gender advancements for women. “They let black people vote, why can’t they let women vote?”

    And as wrong-headed and petty and poisonous as that sentiment is, people who feel very passionately about animal rights are going to hear echoes of it in any attempt to differentiate humans from animals in an effort to call attention to a struggle that should be parallel and not across-purposes, and people still struggling for minority rights are going to feel piqued that energy and effort should go into raising up an animal when there is still this 400+ year old legacy of slavery to dismantle.

    If the stated purpose is to level the playing field, to not assume that humans are dominant/better than animals, then any negative associations between minorities and animals will come out in the wash because the slur will lose its bite when a monkey or a chihuahua is morally no different from a straight while upper-middle class male, so it really should be a point of intersectionality.

    Which means that the bristle is between the current reality and the preferred reality: feminism works within this paradigm all the time, from gender essentialism to stay-at-home parenting to whether or not to put lipstick on.

  20. Lauren O
    Lauren O August 26, 2009 at 4:27 pm |

    Eccentric Vegan – Well, yes, it is the question – or one question, at least.

    This post was not about whether vegetarianism/veganism is worthwhile. Everyone here agrees that cruelty to animals is bad, and a large percentage of us (myself included) are vegetarians/vegans or at least try to consume fewer animal products. That’s not what the post is about. The post is about the morality and possible racism of drawing parallels between humans and animals.

    Also, do you always end blog comments with some sort of slogan?

  21. bfp
    bfp August 26, 2009 at 4:29 pm |

    If I could simply switch my diet from hamburgers to beans and rice and thus spare the lives and suffering of enslaved women, I’d do it.

    if it’s not that easy to liberate women, it’s not that easy to liberate animals. and vise versa. at it’s heart, Peta is a reformist movement working to make people believe that a jingo campaign is really going to do anything to create change.

  22. Azalea
    Azalea August 26, 2009 at 5:03 pm |

    Charlotte, show me where a cow was raped and whipped to death? Show me where people ate black people for the protein, iron and vitamin b6 we get from beef. Show me where someone shames a cow for breastfeeding in public or at all and calls her a bitch. Show me these things and then mabe you stand a chance at having a point.

    If anything the sickos who think they have the right to forcibly impregnante an animal to preserve its species or push her to mate are less than human. You think HUMANS are mean to the animals we consume, have you ever seen a pack of lions jump a baby elephant and tear its flesh apart mercilessly to feed? Who says lions cant survive off plants but their own natural instinct -like HUMANS have natural instincts- to feed on meat?

    If you identify with cows and chickens as being the same as you and calves and chicks as being equal to human babies then that comparison stands valid for YOU and the calves and chicks you give birth to. I give birth to human babies who ARE different than barn animals.

  23. Joel
    Joel August 26, 2009 at 5:42 pm |

    “Charlotte, show me where a cow was raped and whipped to death?” Just google it. Ever heard of a “rape rack”.

    This post is ridiculous though. Nothing you go through compares to what animals on factory farms go through. NOT AT ALL.

  24. Anna
    Anna August 26, 2009 at 5:46 pm |

    “until we can get to a point where there is equality amongst the human race, demanding such equality between humans and animals is going to be an issue.”

    The same argument was made to feminists working against racism–“put your issue on hold until this more important one is dealt with first.” That’s a false dichotomy, and any point of view that promotes “the other” ultimately takes away from us all.

  25. roses
    roses August 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm |

    I feel like some commenters are missing the point here. It’s not that animal rights activists should put their issues on hold and focus on ending racism. It’s that as long as racism exists, animal rights activitsts should avoid the tactic of comparing animals to oppressed groups of people. Now it would be different if it were straight white, currently able-bodied men who were being held up as equivalent to animals… but at least with PETA, it rarely is.

  26. tanglad
    tanglad August 26, 2009 at 6:17 pm |

    EV@18: “If I could simply switch my diet from hamburgers to beans and rice and thus spare the lives and suffering of enslaved women, I’d do it.”

    Simply switching your diet does not spare the suffering of animals either, since the horrors of corporate agriculture and the meat industry are strongly tied to systemic commodification under advanced capitalism. Same with the commodification of Third World women’s lives and bodies. I’m really frustrated at how people who fancy themselves as activists use capitalist choice (buying vegan, buying “fair trade,” project red, etc) to salve their liberal consciences, without regard for how their actions shore up these intersecting oppressions.

  27. chava
    chava August 26, 2009 at 6:26 pm |

    Whoooo-kay.

    As tempting as it is to lash back at the Preachy Vegan/Vegetarian lines of thought upthread, we’re not really here to talk about whether your diets are worthwhile. We’re talking about why it is offensive for PeTA to continue comparing human beings to farm animals and expect POC to just suck it up.

    There are better ways for PeTA to make their point–disagree with it though I might– than by degrading the suffering of Jews and African-Americans. Comparing factory farming to the Holocaust and dressing up as the KKK IS NOT OK. It is NOT THE SAME THING. To suggest it is even remotely the same thing is incredibly offensive–and yes, directly equating humans to animals COUNTS as suggesting it is the same thing.

    I believe animals can suffer. I believe they can feel intense pain. Further, I didn’t see Renee try to say otherwise in her post!

    (btw, Renee, I am totally using PeTA from now on. It is made of win.)

  28. Ruchama
    Ruchama August 26, 2009 at 6:29 pm |

    Charlotte, show me where a cow was raped and whipped to death?

    Dairy industry, all the time.

    (I’m vegan. I believe in animal rights. I don’t think that animals are the same as people, but I do believe that, as animals, they deserve much more than we currently give them. There are things that make cows unique and worthwhile, and those things are the things that make them cows, not the things that make them like humans. I think that “Cows are just like people, therefore we should treat cows better” is the totally wrong approach. My way of looking at it is, “Cows have all kinds of neat cow-like qualities, and we should appreciate them for being cows.”)

  29. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 26, 2009 at 6:37 pm |

    squoggle: “Now, that might strike someone as offensive or insensitive on the grounds that members of their ethnic group have been – and sometimes still are – regarded as animals (or their moral equals) as part of a strategy of moral devaluation, but only if that person failed to pay due attention to quite obvious details of the claims and arguments beings put forward. As such, she has only herself to blame.”

    What a fine example of passive-aggressive middle-class whitespeak! Brava! Next time, throw a little more smug superiority and condescension in there, while you’re at it. You were almost on to something with the “pay due attention” and “quite obvious”, but you could have managed to inject a little more hostility of the plausibly-deniable kind. (Gee, I wonder who squoggle is referring to? Hmmm…)

    Renee is spot-on again. So is bfp and tanglad. Consumer “choices” aren’t going to lead anyone’s revolution. Also, this post is not about what people are eating (an argument that ranks right up there with how people are having sex in terms of intrusiveness).

  30. Roy
    Roy August 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm |

    Full disclosure: I am not vegetarian, or an animal rights activist in any strong sense of the word.

    This is a really great post, Renee. I think that there are significant moral concerns about our treatment of animals, and I do think that we have similar moral obligations towards animals as we do towards fellow humans, but the issues of how we draw comparisons and use language are important, too, and you’ve raised an issue I hadn’t really considered before. It’s definitely given me a lot to think about.

    If anything the sickos who think they have the right to forcibly impregnante an animal to preserve its species or push her to mate are less than human. You think HUMANS are mean to the animals we consume, have you ever seen a pack of lions jump a baby elephant and tear its flesh apart mercilessly to feed? Who says lions cant survive off plants but their own natural instinct -like HUMANS have natural instincts- to feed on meat?

    Eh. This? Not so much.
    Lions can’t feed on plant matter because of their biology. They simply do not have the equipment to eat plant matter, any more than a cow has the equipment to eat meat. Further, you’re conflating a comparison of moral status with one of physical status. The argument for animal rights activists is that our moral obligations towards animals are the same as our moral obligations towards fellow humans. A cow has the same moral rights against us as we have against each other. That a lion kills and eats a gazelle is irrelevant to the discussion because, as far as we can tell, a lion does not have the ability to do otherwise. A lion is not a rational actor, and cannot understand or respect moral obligations. A lion can kill, but it cannot murder. We, as humans, are not robots, incapable of overcoming instinct. We are rational actors and capable of recognizing moral obligations. Just as we don’t have to attack or injure people who make us angry, even if our instincts and adrenal responses are pushing us that way, we don’t have to kill and eat animals, either.

    If you identify with cows and chickens as being the same as you and calves and chicks as being equal to human babies then that comparison stands valid for YOU and the calves and chicks you give birth to. I give birth to human babies who ARE different than barn animals.

    Again, that’s conflating a moral equivalence with a physical one. A human being is physically different from a lion or chicken, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our moral obligations towards them are different. It may be offensive to say that humans are just animals, for the reasons that Renee describes, but pointing out that something is physically different doesn’t mean that our obligations are different. Even if you object to the idea that animals have the same moral rights as humans in general, if we discover some non-human persons–if dolphins turn out to have sentience and reason on par with humans, or we discover some extra terrestrial beings, for example–are we going to say “Well, even though you’re rational beings capable of understanding moral obligations, you’re not the same as us, so too bad.”

  31. halime
    halime August 26, 2009 at 7:18 pm |

    Renee, thank you so much for another beautifully-written, thought provoking post. Your posts continually push me to think about the world in new and challenging ways. I am sad to see that this thread has been derailed by those who would rather discuss “cow-like qualities.”

  32. Ruchama
    Ruchama August 26, 2009 at 7:24 pm |

    In what way was that a derail? I was agreeing with Renee that the “animals are the same as people” argument is problematic, and suggesting what I thought was a better way to get the animal rights message across.

  33. halime
    halime August 26, 2009 at 7:27 pm |

    OK, if the consensus is that was not a derail, then I’ll accept that. Was only voicing my frustrations with the direction of the discussion.

  34. Katie
    Katie August 26, 2009 at 7:41 pm |

    Firstly, I just want to thank Renee for yet another piece that makes me think and recognize my privilage.

    I know the point of this piece is to point out how offensive comparisons between humans and non-humans can be to people of color, and as someone involved with AR, I completely understand and agree. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately, in fact, and this post is really making it sink in. I have a lot to think about.

    I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts about situations when these comparisons are being made in discussions about evolutionary similarities and shared history.

    For example, when trying to point out to someone that it makes sense to assume, due to a shared evolutionary past, that non-humans have feelings/emotions, some sort of cognition, and can feel pain, is there a way to do so that doesn’t bring up the dehumanizing and oppressive ways comparisons have been used in the past and doesn’t alienate people of color?

  35. Drakyn
    Drakyn August 26, 2009 at 8:45 pm |

    I second everything Rennee & bfp have said, you two are awesome.

  36. Napalm Nacey
    Napalm Nacey August 26, 2009 at 8:47 pm |

    Right on, Renee. Brilliant post. *ignores vege debate*

  37. Constintina
    Constintina August 26, 2009 at 9:37 pm |

    Dang, what Roses said.

    And what bfp said.

    And what Renee originally posted.

    Damn,

  38. Lauren O
    Lauren O August 26, 2009 at 10:20 pm |

    A lion is not a rational actor, and cannot understand or respect moral obligations. A lion can kill, but it cannot murder.

    I agree completely, which is exactly why I don’t think humans and animals are equals (not that you said they were, if I’ve read your post correctly, Roy). I’m a vegetarian, and I’m against animal cruelty, but I still don’t think – to go back to my earlier example – that a mother cow can suffer the loss of her calf in the same way a human mother suffers the loss of her child. This is precisely because a cow doesn’t have the mental capacity to process emotions and ideas the way a human can (though cows do have some emotional capacity), just as a lion can’t process emotions/ideas enough to put a carnivorous diet in a moral framework.

    That’s why it is so horrible to think of slaves/prisoners being treated “like animals.” An animal doesn’t want to be whipped and shouldn’t be whipped, but it doesn’t have the same emotional pain as a human from being whipped. And so to imply, as PETA has, that animals experience what Holocaust victims experienced, is offensive, as are the multitude of examples Renee has listed.

  39. Eccentric Vegan
    Eccentric Vegan August 27, 2009 at 12:36 am |

    tanglad,
    you wrote:
    “Simply switching your diet does not spare the suffering of animals either, since the horrors of corporate agriculture and the meat industry are strongly tied to systemic commodification under advanced capitalism. Same with the commodification of Third World women’s lives and bodies. I’m really frustrated at how people who fancy themselves as activists use capitalist choice (buying vegan, buying “fair trade,” project red, etc) to salve their liberal consciences, without regard for how their actions shore up these intersecting oppressions.”

    I agree with you.

    The only thing is, Renee and most of the others who discount the role of personal choice still chow down on dead cows, pigs, chickens, fish, and other living, thinking, loving creatures who want to live.

    Just because some things are not within our control does not alleviate our responsibility to refrain from adding to those problems. Go vegan and save your health, save animals, and save the planet.

    Or… make up empty excuses about how it’s not your fault and if only those hetero white AR people were less pricks then you could actually do something positive for animals.

  40. Miss Werewolf
    Miss Werewolf August 27, 2009 at 1:02 am |

    I’m sorry but I felt I had to weigh in on this. I understand that being compared to an animal would make anyone angry, and with good reason, with the terrible history behind it. However, I feel it is a bit extreme to say that animals can suffer as long as human beings dont. Forgive me if I get preachy, but my family always taught me that all beings are my brothers and sisters, humans, animals, plants, and that I must treat them all with respect, and as though they were my equals. All beings suffer, and we should at least try to eliminate that suffering.
    It may be insulting to be compared to the lowly worm, but the worm still feels. The worm is still needed. Such an insult should be taken as both an insult to the person and to the worm.
    Respect for all beings does not come one step at a time, it takes a change in one’s entire worldview. Racism, sexism, speciesism, classism, homophobia, and all these worldviews based on fear and ignorance are equally reprehensible. One is not worse than the other. So yes, let us work toward true equality for people of color, but let us not diminish or demean the fights for equality for others as well.
    I am on the same level as all my relations, I am not better than the animals, and biologically we are all animals as well. That is why I call myself the Werewolf. I wish to show we are equals, all humans, and all animals.
    Again forgive me if I preach. I mean no offense to anyone.

  41. chava
    chava August 27, 2009 at 1:22 am |

    First off, Eccentric Vegan, who the heck brought sexual orientation into it??

    Yes, those who disagree with PeTA’s tactics are just whiny brats who won’t shut up and take abuse from “hetero white AR people” in the name of the animals. Because their suffering is more important than a few hurt feelings of some POC.

    Jesus. Really? Could you possibly miss the point MORE? Whether or not Renee or anyone else eats dead animals isn’t the point. Ad hominem attacks on others’ eating habits and the implicit criticism of their underlying morality isn’t the point. The merits of veganism isn’t the point. The systematic use of racism, sexism and bigotry by a mainstream AR organization is the damn point.

    MIss Werewolf:
    “However, I feel it is a bit extreme to say that animals can suffer as long as human beings dont.”

    Who said that?

  42. jo
    jo August 27, 2009 at 2:04 am |

    Thanks for this thought provoking post Renee.

    I am a white vegan woman. I think that you have brought home a really important point that I and others have not noticed because we speak from a place of privilege. By the way, I think this applies to thoughtless similes used by a lot of even wellmeaning veg*n groups. (I don’t think PeTA is a well-meaning group. I think that PeTA deliberately use offensive and oppressive images because they are oppressive jerks who think that media attention is more important than the rights of any oppressed group. I note that they alienate most progressive veg*n and non-veg*n people with their disgusting antics.)

    I, like many other veg*n people, do see a moral equivalency in oppression to animals and oppression to people. However, I think that we also should avoid all forms of oppression, including oppression to women and people of colour. If our speech reinforces oppression against POC, then we need to find new ways to communicate our messages and explain our concepts of moral equivalence.

    Can I just note that some of the people above are speaking from very different paradigms. Most ethical veg*n people see animals as being equally deserving of freedom from harm and oppression as people and as being valuable and unique, as people are valuable and unique (though they would also say that animals are different than humans, with different needs). I think that they forget that the rest of the world does not think that way and that to talk about animals and humans as morally equivalent forgets that many people see a (yes speciesist) hierarchy with people above and separate to animals in worth. Clearly both of these world views are present in the discussion above.

    However, different paradigms are not excuses for reinforcing the oppression of oppressed classes of humans. Forgetting that oppressors will see metaphors as an endorsement of current oppressive practices against humans, is inexcusable. Thanks to Renee calling us on this, I will strive to explain ethical veganism in a way which does not reinforce the horrible stereotyping and put-downs of POC.

  43. tanglad
    tanglad August 27, 2009 at 2:05 am |

    @Eccentric Vegan#39: I don’t think you’re agreeing with me. When you equate personal choice of consumption, both in the sense of buying and eating, with saving the planet, then you’re still very much shoring up the systemic oppressions that undergird marginalization of people and the commodification of animals. For example, take people who profess they’re living cruelty-free lifestyles by not consuming meat. But they buy commercially grown produce, oblivious to how cruel commercial agriculture is to farm workers, most of whom are poc.

    This willful ignorance is bad enough, all privilege and latent racism. But Renee’s post talks of something far worse. The overt racism behind using comparisons that are dehumanizing to poc. The sexism and bigotry. The dismissal of critics of racism/sexism as people who don’t want to do something positive for animals. Coupled with the simplistic solution to still consume, just buy something else. Ultimately, this is unhelpful to all marginalized thinking and loving creatures, human or non-human.

  44. jo
    jo August 27, 2009 at 2:11 am |

    By the way, the veg*n in my previous post stands for “vegetarian or vegan” and is a fairly common contraction in the veg*n online community.

  45. Jill
    Jill August 27, 2009 at 4:16 am |

    @tanglad: indeed. In fact, to go along with ripley’s point at 9; “Racism is not about what people intend, it’s about the effect of what they do. Does it benefit from and reinforce racial hierarchies & white supremacy? then it’s racist.”
    Since buying commercially grown produce reinforces the system of institutionalised cruelty to farm workers who are mostly poc, going to the supermarket is racist. I find it really hard to get into the heads of people who can go into Whole Foods, pick up some broccoli, and yet STILL not understand that what they are doing is deeply, deeply racist. That is the real face of the ignorance and privilege that we need to attack constantly in our own lives, and posts like yours and Renee’s beautiful OP really help to illuminate this for me.

  46. Michael
    Michael August 27, 2009 at 6:00 am |

    I think one thing that’s important to keep in mind is that people can be compared with animals in many different ways. I don’t think the comparison is intrinsically offensive because it can be made in a way that takes the problematic history of the comparison into account. I’ve seen many examples of evolutionary biologists do this — where they make the comparison in a nuanced way, stating it as a biological fact that we cannot ignore but that we must separate from the bigoted normative uses it’s often put to.

    I guess the biggest problem with PETA’s use of it is that it tries to be context-free, which is what happens when you simply tell a POC that they are an animal (and that therefore animals deserve rights).

    Another thing is that I’ve never actually seen an animal rights group say people are “the same” as animals, more that we have certain things in common such as the desire not to be harmed. Has anyone seen a specific example? It makes no difference to the appropriateness of the comparison in context but is still interesting.

  47. Bakka
    Bakka August 27, 2009 at 6:04 am |

    Renee writes: “[PeTA] buttress their position by saying that we are no different than animals and therefore are undeserving of special treatment.”

    I think that when the questions is “Are humans the same as animals?” The only answer is that the question is incoherent. Renee is right to point out that humans are biologically animals (as in we are not insects, rocks or plants). But asking whether we are “no different than” or “the same as” animals does not make sense. There are many similarities between humans and some animals, and there are also many differences.

    I think the problem is that this is an example of what Marilyn Frye calls A/not-A thinking (in “The Necessity of Differences” from the journal SIGNS in 1996 vol. 21 no. 4). The problem with this approach is that it tries to create a list of features, attributes, and characteristics that are necessary and sufficient for including something in a category. This kind of thinking underlies White western dualism, but as Frye points out it is actually a monistic way of thinking because it privileges the “A” and leaves the “not-A” undefined (everything else from numbers, to chocolate ice cream will be in the not-A category, it the A category is “humans”).

    Frye prefers A:B thinking in category formation. With this kind of category we can see both similarities and differences both withing the category we are focusing on and between the category we are focusing on and some other category.

    Frye’s article is excellent and I highly recommend it to anyone who has not read it.

    I think the A/not-A problem of White thinking has lead to a lot of the atrocities in white behaviour and a lot of White moral failings. I think Renee is right to point out that comparisons/associations between people of colour and animals has been a major way in which White people justified the mistreatment of POC, because it was a way to put POC in the not-A category.

    I think, though, that rather than being speciesist (which seems again to invoke A/not-A, where we privilege and have moral obligations to humans, and not non-humans) it might be more useful to challenge this construction. We could still have the category human (A) but constrast this with various other categories (B, C, D, etc) to see how moral obligations could be different (rather than absent) for other categories.

  48. Caffeineadddict
    Caffeineadddict August 27, 2009 at 6:35 am |

    Bakka: “I think, though, that rather than being speciesist (which seems again to invoke A/not-A, where we privilege and have moral obligations to humans, and not non-humans) it might be more useful to challenge this construction.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I really liked this article, because I’d never really thought about the race issues regarding PETA’s campaigns. But I agree with Bakka: being a speciesist is problematic in itself.

  49. Yeah, well...
    Yeah, well... August 27, 2009 at 7:24 am |

    As for PETA – where are the naked men in cages? Black or white.

  50. debbie
    debbie August 27, 2009 at 8:06 am |

    Just a heads up that vegansoapbox is Elaine Vigneault – she’s not interested in engaging in actual debate or discussion, but promoting herself/website (and maybe her beliefs, but given her history as a commenter on this blog….)

  51. Scott
    Scott August 27, 2009 at 8:12 am |

    I if might, while I understand and completely agree with the anger you feel for human beings compared to animals as a racist pejorative, said pejorative is only possible because we baselessly put humans above animals in the first place. While it is factually true to say that we are all animals, it may be more useful to say that we are all survival machines for genes. At which point humans are greatly devalued in stature in terms of the effectiveness with which we are able to propogate our genes. Also, when you say “For as long as my skin is Black I will be a devoted speciesist. My dignity and humanity demand no less” you are, in proudly proclaring yourself a speciesist, enabling racism; as speciesism, like racism, is the act of making arbitrary value judgements based on biologically, as opposed to morally, relevant criteria. With regards to racism and specisim, one cannot, as a matter of pure analytic thought, promote one without simultaneously promoting the other.

  52. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 8:18 am |

    Humans ARE animals. It’s not a “dehumanizing” thing. It’s what we are. You erred as soon as you wrote the title to this one.

    Why is it that other feminists are able to understand the connection between animal liberation and other movements (including civil rights, etc) but the people on feministe can not?

    I’m not a peta fan or anything but the fact that you can not separate the massive amount of animal activism from the tiny racist, sexist portion that is peta shows that you really don’t want to understand the connection.

    Humans and animals are not the same. Just like men and women are not the same. No one is asking for men to have the right to an abortion because men can’t get pregnant, just as no one is asking for a dog to have the right to vote because dogs can not vote.

    This is not an excuse however to demean animals as less than humans simply because they are different. In doing so, you are using the same logic that people have used in all movements to demean the worth of other humans and the planet.

    In waiting for humans to all get along in order to start on animals, you are missing the point entirely. Human suffering is linked to that of OTHER animals. The sooner we all realize this, the sooner we can work together more effectively to change our world.

  53. r.t.
    r.t. August 27, 2009 at 8:56 am |

    ARPhilo

    Perhaps you are missing a point.

    It is dehumanizing to be compared to an animal if you are of a human group regularly compared to animals, or your group is used for an argument of convenience to compare the lives of animals to one’s own life by a different human group that can use it’s privileges to make such arguments and comparisons without consequence beyond criticism by the underprivileged groups.

    If you would understand, and I’m hoping you will, the underprivileged have to prove to their privileged counter-parts that they are human beings on an almost constant basis and as such not deserving of the treatment they receive and the additional burdens and hurtles they must carry and navigate through in the society the privileged have made for themselves.

    That is why many who are underprivileged, especially those whose bodies, histories, and atypical neurology are used by animal rights activists to make whatever point it is they are trying to make without the consent of the underprivileged groups find their tactics dehumanizing and offensive, because not only are the underprivileged once again being compared to animals as if they were not human beings, but they are also being used as objects, just like how many, many animals are used as objects.

  54. Scott
    Scott August 27, 2009 at 9:31 am |

    r.t.

    While I kind of see your point, and I think this stems from problems in the logic of the original post, it is, simply, impossible to “dehumanize” someone. Much in the same way that it is impossible to “demammalify” someone, in that there is nothing innately special about being a human, only that in our own anthropocentric self interest do we arbitrarly grant humans priviliged status. Using, as you say, those with “atypical neurology” to make valid points about the status of animals is simply one of the only ways to break through the anthropocentrism inherent in conventional discourse. Even those with “atypical neurology” are viewed, through the orthodox of convention, as subjects. It is animals who are arbitrarily relegated to objects. Again, you argue against yourself, if we are demarcating the boundaries between those whose interests warrant consideration based on, again, biological, as opposed to morally, relevant criteria, there is in fact no compelling reason to suddenly include the underprivileged.

  55. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 9:45 am |

    Why are you assuming that all animal rights people are of these privileged groups? I certainly am not. I am not a POC but have plenty of other gender, class, history, “atypical neurology” and other issues to deal with. There are also plenty POCs and people who are not “privileged” (whatever that means) who are into animal activism.

    I saw a whole family of black people leave a circus we were protesting at one time because they read our leaflet and said “This is what they used to do to slaves. We can’t support this.”

    It’s only offensive if you can not see the connection.

    AR activists (or should I say MOST since I can’t speak for all) use things like the Holocaust, slavery, womens suffrage and so on because they are LINKED to the suffering of other animals. People get offended by that more because it would involve an admission of hypocrisy or a life change if it were true- which it is.

    Fur farms are concentration camps for nonhuman animals. Circuses are slavery for nonhuman animals. Female animals in animal industries are treated as nothing more than breeding machines. The difference is that it is happening on a much wider scale and the things done to nonhuman animals are often far more horrific than things done to humans even in the most horrific of human atrocities in history.

    You claim to care about “respect” for animals yet still think they should be reduced to commodities for food, clothing, and entertainment. Even if it were possible to treat animals well before they died in these industries, which it is not, you are still seeing them as commodities and thus are treating them in the same way as people who said “Well, we treat our slaves well! But we’ve got a family to feed, they can wait.”

    Be insulted by the comparison all you want. But, ask yourself why you are insulted. Is it because of a comparison made in the past or is it because admitting these connections would force you to admit that you are a direct counterpart of these cruelties happening to animals each day that are ENTIRELY UNNECESSARY.

    Imagine if all of the time Feministe writers spent bashing animal rights activists, they instead worked toward something positive in working alongside each other (something most animal rights activists do- as they are feminists)… But bashing and dividing the movement seems much more popular on this site.

  56. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 9:58 am |

    PS I do understand what you are saying about being sensitive to past insults, but I think avoiding the connection and refusing to include POCs and other demographics is what makes some AR groups end up being a bunch of white people.

    I am not afraid to talk to anyone about it nor do I need to use anyone as a token for a group. In fact, I have actually found that POC tend to be more responsive to animal rights issues than you or perhaps peta would give them credit for. The same goes for people of Jewish descent.

    Believe it or not, many people who have been there or have known someone who has see the connection immediately.

    So perhaps it is the more privileged people who are offended. It seems to me that the ones who have seen the most struggles are the ones who get it.

  57. bfp
    bfp August 27, 2009 at 10:22 am |

    Be insulted by the comparison all you want. But, ask yourself why you are insulted. Is it because of a comparison made in the past or is it because admitting these connections would force you to admit that you are a direct counterpart of these cruelties happening to animals each day that are ENTIRELY UNNECESSARY.

    When was the last time a white person was shot and killed on the border by a mexican because the U.S. needed to “protect” the U.S. from “invasions” and “hordes” of cockroach like mexicans? When was the last time entire cities of white people were slaughtered/tortured by people of color because killing white people is as easy as a “Turkey shoot” (my Lai, abu ghraib, falluja, on and on and on and on)? When was the last time white women were held at gun point by Mexicans and told to express milk to prove they were lactating, while the people holding guns were “mooing” at them?

    It is not just that these comparisons to animals is offensive–it’s that they have *real* *life* *consequences* for people of color that white people JUST. DON’T. HAVE. TO. WORRY. ABOUT. Sure, white people don’t mind being called worms, but there is no nation/state shooting them in face for “invading the garden.”

    I have written before on my own blog–I personally identify most with animals around the stealing of their young. I am a woman of color, and I live in a community that has regularly seen their children stolen from them for one reason or another for decades. I see a point of solidarity and radical love between me and a cow or a mother bear or a mother alligator.

    But I make this connection between me and a mother animal not so that I can convince others to stop eating meat, but so that I can 1. get people to stop fucking stealing my kids and the animal’s babies and 2. so that I can see exactly how the theft of children from certain populations is normalized and reproduced over and over again in this structure and 3. so that I can change the structure.

    Peta and groups like peta are using painful and difficult comparisons that must be negotiated, often in ways that are horribly traumatizing to people of color, to advance their OWN predertmined causes that have little to do with the needs of people of color. Think of the billboard Peta placed on the border wall where many mexicans have been shot and killed and raped and disappeared–*because they are looked at as cockroaches*. is that billboard saying “you are the same as an animla?” or is it saying, You are *lower* than an animal–we don’t give a shit that you, animal woman, are being raped, we care that you don’t eat *real* animals, the *important* animals, the animals we, White Supremacist U.S. A., feel are *worth* saving.

  58. Scott
    Scott August 27, 2009 at 10:39 am |

    bfp,

    Again, one cannot be lower than an animal. There is nothing intrinsicly special about being human. No one is denying that the things you describe are terrible. Nor is anyone denying that the ideology of the US one that privileges white people over people of other colors. But your argument unweaves itself. Human suffering has no special quality that places it above non-human animal suffering, other than the fact that we, as humans have an interest in pretending that it does. All suffering is bad. But if you want to arbitrarily put the suffering of people of color above the suffering of non-human animals, on, yes, again, biological as opposed to morally relevant criteria, what is to stop someone else in the established white patriarchy from arbitrarily putting the suffering of white poeple above the suffering of non-whites based on the same biological criteria you yourself champion?

  59. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 10:58 am |

    Those comparisons are also demeaning to the other animals. That’s what you are failing to see. It exploits the humans and other animals. I usually don’t pimp my own posts but rather than reinvent the wheel, here is where I discuss it more: http://arphilosophy.blogspot.com/2009/08/bitches-pigs-rats-and-chickens-animal.html

    The consequences affect the humans and other animals involved when the language is used as demeaning. You can choose to see the connection or not.

  60. roses
    roses August 27, 2009 at 11:02 am |

    In fact, I have actually found that POC tend to be more responsive to animal rights issues than you or perhaps peta would give them credit for.

    Way. To miss. The point. Renee is not saying that POC are intrinsically unresponsive to animal rights issues. She’s saying that the tactics AR groups use are offensive to many POC. And honestly. When somebody comes up to you and says: “Look, I’m not unsympathetic to your cause, but the tactics you use are offensive and alienating to me” what do you think is more likely to win her to your cause? Telling her she’s wrong, or listening and considering her concerns, and changing your tactics accordingly? Is your telling Renee to get over it really about your concern for animal rights, or is it about defending your white privilege?

  61. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:02 am |

    And again, you are failing to see that I have nothing to do with PETA, yet several people keep bring that up as something they can use against me and other animal liberationists.

    Let me let you in on something. MOST AR activists can’t stand PETA. MOST AR activists are anti-racist, feminist, and so on. And PETA is a TINY TINY TINY fraction of the animal activism out there.

    But people just LOVE to focus on the controversy don’t they?

  62. roses
    roses August 27, 2009 at 11:03 am |

    Also?
    I do understand what you are saying about being sensitive to past insults

    Past insults? Every example Renee gave was current. BFP laid out several more current examples.

  63. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:06 am |

    When somebody comes up to you and says: “Look, I’m not unsympathetic to your cause, but the tactics you use are offensive and alienating to me” what do you think is more likely to win her to your cause? Telling her she’s wrong, or listening and considering her concerns, and changing your tactics accordingly? Is your telling Renee to get over it really about your concern for animal rights, or is it about defending your white privilege?

    I focus on truth. While I respect people’s views on things, I am also not going to treat a POC like s/he’s made of egg shells on an issue. I speak frankly and truthfully. I would have this conversation differently when approaching someone on the street.

    But, here at feministe, I feel the need to DEFEND the AR movement against the attacks here. I really don’t get the love of hating AR. So what if PETA sucks. Ignore them! It doesn’t mean you smash the entire movement because of a tiny fraction. That is extremely prejudiced and closed minded.

    I call it like I see it. I am sure the women (POC and white) on here are strong and can take real criticism. I don’t believe in tip toeing around the truth.

  64. Scott
    Scott August 27, 2009 at 11:11 am |

    roses
    “Past insults? Every example Renee gave was current. BFP laid out several more current examples.”

    All examples which are supposed to be more meaningful than animal suffering because they happened to humans and are presented to an anthropocentric audience. Also, in numerical terms of pure numbers of lives taken, rapes perpetrated, and children seperated from mothers, slavery has nothing on the consumption (industrial or otherwise) of non-humna animals for food.

    (I don’t know if any of these are showing up, as all my comments say they are awaiting moderation)

  65. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:13 am |

    Also?
    I do understand what you are saying about being sensitive to past insults

    Past insults? Every example Renee gave was current. BFP laid out several more current examples.

    I said “past insults” in reference the the use of the word “again” talking about being “again” compared to animals. I was not suggesting that racism somehow ceases to exist these days. But you really want to put me in that box because I told you I was white, correct?

    Look, what I am saying is that racism, sexism, xenophobiam, ageism, etc and SPECIESISM are all connected. As long as people keep proudly referring to themselves as devout “speciesists” while calling for changes in the racist, sexist, and all around shitty nature of many human beings, they are dividing the movement and using the same logic that people have used for oppression and exploitation of other living people, animals, and the planet for all eternity.

    You can turn me into a racist all you want because I refuse to separate one race, sex, or species as being more worthy than another of respect and dignity. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

  66. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:21 am |

    Why is it that you are allowed to bash animal rights, call for the commodification of other animals, call me names, and be all around rude and offensive, but I can not defend any of these things or even speak my mind without being immediately shot down as a racist?

    If you were any other color, I’d have the same criticisms about the way you are speaking about other animals and animal rights. I am sorry that to you, that is offensive. But I will not apologize for defending other creatures.

  67. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:23 am |

    And as I said before, the only people that seem to have a problem with this that are also POCs are the people on feministe. There are veganarchists and feminists all over the place that completely get it. You don’t want to. That is all. It is not about anything other than that. You don’t want to get it. So, don’t.

    I don’t know why I torture myself reading this site anyways.

    I wish you the best. Just try to extend the same respect you expect to other animals as well. That’s all I ask.

  68. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:30 am |

    Thank you, Scott! Your comments just started showing up and I got to read all of them. Thank you.

  69. bfp
    bfp August 27, 2009 at 11:30 am |

    All examples which are supposed to be more meaningful than animal suffering because they happened to humans and are presented to an anthropocentric audience

    actually, the examples I gave were comparisons between whiteness and coloredness. given specifically to show that state sanctioned murder of white people because they have been compared to animals or given status *lower* than animals is fundamentally never going to happen in a white supremacist society.

    My point is not that humans are more worthy than animals, but that it’s mighty easy for white people to say that they don’t mind being called a worm or compared to a gorilla, because white supremacy isn’t shooting and raping them because they remind white supremacy of cockroaches. If points of solidarity are going to be made, I want those points of solidarity used to challenge violent horrible structures that hurt my community. Peta is not doing that. They are calling for reform, not structural change.

  70. Scott
    Scott August 27, 2009 at 11:34 am |

    Just to add to ARPhilo, like it or not, you are an animal. If you don’t like this, or don’t like the practices perpetrated on animals being compared to slavery (Marjorie Speigel and Alice Walker disagree with you) then the solution is simple: find some evidence that proves that humans are , intrinsicly, worth more than animals. Then maybe start calling people racists because they disagree with your posts.

  71. bfp
    bfp August 27, 2009 at 11:36 am |

    Nor is anyone denying that the ideology of the US one that privileges white people over people of other colors. But your argument unweaves itself. Human suffering has no special quality that places it above non-human animal suffering, other than the fact that we, as humans have an interest in pretending that it does. All suffering is bad.

    Actually, I’m not making that argument, PEta is, with their signs. They are saying, “protect the animals”–to people who are being shot down and raped and disappeared. THey are saying “animals are more important than you are”–OR “we are all animals, and you are not an animal worth saving.”This is not my argument, this is what is being said by peta when they put billboards up calling for animal rights in spaces where brown people are murdered and disappeared and raped *because they are considered cockroaches*.

  72. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:38 am |

    Scott, I think you meant to refer to someone else. Not me :-)

  73. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:39 am |

    Erm never mind. You said “To add to”. I thought you were addressing me. Sry!

  74. Scott
    Scott August 27, 2009 at 11:40 am |

    Yes, sorry, I meant it in solidarity.

  75. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:42 am |

    bfp: Actually, I’m not making that argument, PEta is, with their signs. They are saying, “protect the animals”–to people who are being shot down and raped and disappeared. THey are saying “animals are more important than you are”–OR “we are all animals, and you are not an animal worth saving.”This is not my argument, this is what is being said by peta when they put billboards up calling for animal rights in spaces where brown people are murdered and disappeared and raped *because they are considered cockroaches*.

    Even though I have said I am not part of peta, I have never seen any animal org say that other animals are above people. That is a defensive thing that humans say because they are offended at the fact that they must accept they are also animals. HUMANS ARE ANIMALS. So, animal liberation IS human liberation. It is the anti-ar activists that separate the two.

    This is not a defense for peta’s (what I think is) utter stupidity in putting out racist, calssist, and sexist propaganda. I do think at times this may make them seem as if they are putting other animals ahead of people.

    BUT, the entire point of animal liberation is ALL animal liberation- including humans.

  76. chava
    chava August 27, 2009 at 11:51 am |

    Really, ARPhilo? Human beings can only sit on the Internet and yak about how we shouldn’t be “speciesist” because we clawed our way to the top of the food chain over a few millennia. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility towards ethical treatment of our planet and its denziens.

    I’m a “devout speciesist,” support AR, and am a devout environmentalist. I also like steak from time to time. I’m also sick and tired of vegan, hardline AR people pretending THEIR issue is THE issue and if you don’t do it their way it is because you are deeply morally bankrupt. Do you really think that the institutions that allow you to be vegan are unproblematic? Is your tofu processed by non-exploited workers and grown without fertilizer that destroys water sources and fisheries? How many trees were cut down to grow it? What about the synthetic fibers you wear instead of leather? What do they release into our environment? Who sews them for you? My point here is that we all do the best we can with these choices, and not eating meat is only one choice among many–and it is not free of its own problems.

    A cow in a factory farm in the US leads a horrible life, and we have a responsibility as sentient beings to improve that life. But to say that it is “enslaved,” or part of a “mass murder” is insulting. It’s a stupid attempt to be “edgy” and force people to realize a moral eqivalency that doesn’t exist–at the expense of POC. If you refuse to see how depictions of farming as the Holocaust are disgusting and irrelevant, fine.

    In your words, whatever helps you sleep at night.

  77. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 11:54 am |

    Oh jeeze, Chava, really? OMG your computer has mercury in it you must have failed as an environmentalist!

    Those comments are so old, tired, and ridiculous I am not going to dignify them with further response.

  78. bfp
    bfp August 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm |

    Even though I have said I am not part of peta, I have never seen any animal org say that other animals are above people. what do you think that a billboard that is displayed prominently in a site of death, rape and disappearance *and makes no mention of that death, rape and disappearance* because animals are what is important is SAYING to the people being murdered, raped, and disappeared? What do you think it is saying to family is loved ones who see that wall and see the place where their daughter or son was murdered or disappeared?

    That is a defensive thing that humans say because they are offended at the fact that they must accept they are also animals. I’m not offended that I am an animal (and I actually am a strong supporter of animal liberation and have made several connections of solidarity between me and my community, as have other latinos, namely ceasar chavez), I am offended that white AR activists will not recognize the very real risk and historical trauma that surrounds people of color being connected to animals. We’ve been shot and killed and raped and disappeared because we’ve been so intimately connected to animals. There is trauma and violence that is not historical, that is right now happening today. There is very real RISK in being called and identified as an animal TODAY. I am offended that white AF actvisist don’t acknowledge that and follow the lead of vegan AR activists in organizing against violence against animals.

    So, animal liberation IS human liberation. which means that peta needs to care as much about the humans being killed, raped and disappeared right in front of their billboard as they do about not consuming animals.

  79. bfp
    bfp August 27, 2009 at 12:11 pm |

    follow the lead of vegan AR activists in organizing against violence against animals. Excuse me, this SHOULD say, follow the lead of vegan AR activists OF COLOR in organizing…

  80. groggette (Ali)
    groggette (Ali) August 27, 2009 at 12:11 pm |

    For example, take people who profess they’re living cruelty-free lifestyles by not consuming meat. But they buy commercially grown produce, oblivious to how cruel commercial agriculture is to farm workers, most of whom are poc.

    That’s an incredibly powerful point. Thanks for adding that Tanglad.

  81. r.t.
    r.t. August 27, 2009 at 12:12 pm |

    ARPhilo-

    Were you responding to me or ranting? I see maybe a couple of things that could count as a response in your writing and then I see some accusations and some anecdotes and inappropriate psychoanalytical musings as to why I am offended by the tactics of some animal rights groups and activists after I’ve already explained exactly why I am offended.

    Let me tell you something straight: I am not convinced that you are interested in communication. I think that you are more interested in evangelizing and playing a form of Oppression Olympics in which the people who “get it,” it being your un-elaborated arguments, nay, assertions that that the way humans treat each other in human constructed social structures are intrinsically linked to the way human beings treat animals, have had the worse of it compared to those who disagree with you.

  82. Thomas
    Thomas August 27, 2009 at 12:16 pm |

    I am not going to dignify them with further response.

    This will come as a relief to many readers, not excluding the many animal rights supporters whose cause is undermined by your willfully offensive stance that your privileged viewpoint is universal truth and anyone offended by it is hypersensitive. If you didn’t leave, you would probably be banned. Have a nice day!

  83. groggette (Ali)
    groggette (Ali) August 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm |

    and bfp and chava, everything you two said as well.

  84. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 12:20 pm |

    I’m not offended that I am an animal (and I actually am a strong supporter of animal liberation and have made several connections of solidarity between me and my community, as have other latinos, namely ceasar chavez), I am offended that white AR activists will not recognize the very real risk and historical trauma that surrounds people of color being connected to animals. We’ve been shot and killed and raped and disappeared because we’ve been so intimately connected to animals. There is trauma and violence that is not historical, that is right now happening today. There is very real RISK in being called and identified as an animal TODAY. I am offended that white AF actvisist don’t acknowledge that and follow the lead of vegan AR activists in organizing against violence against animals.

    That is NOT only because of people being called animals, it is because of people demeaning animals as much as they do people. Don’t you see? It is because people feel superior to animals and also superior to other humans. Therefore, BOTH are raped, murdered, beaten, and killed and compared to each other as their suffering is SHARED. If humans were not exploiting and demeaning animals, using them as adjectives would no longer lead to oppression.

    which means that peta needs to care as much about the humans being killed, raped and disappeared right in front of their billboard as they do about not consuming animals.

    I am not sure how many times I have to say that I have nothing to do with peta and that most AR activists have nothing to do with peta. But, let’s give it one more go: PETA is not ANIMAL RIGHTS and does not represent animal rights activists. PETA represents a small number of welfarists and people who are ignorant of other issues.

  85. bfp
    bfp August 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm |

    I am not sure how many times I have to say that I have nothing to do with peta and that most AR activists have nothing to do with peta. But, let’s give it one more go: PETA is not ANIMAL RIGHTS and does not represent animal rights activists. PETA represents a small number of welfarists and people who are ignorant of other issues.

    I’m not talking about you, and I haven’t been. I’ve been talking about PETA. I don’t think you’re a part of peta, and have never said you were. This post is about peta, my responses have said “peta” and/or “groups like peta”

  86. bfp
    bfp August 27, 2009 at 12:28 pm |

    I am not sure how many times I have to say that I have nothing to do with peta and that most AR activists have nothing to do with peta. But, let’s give it one more go: PETA is not ANIMAL RIGHTS and does not represent animal rights activists. PETA represents a small number of welfarists and people who are ignorant of other issues.

    I’m not talking about you, and I haven’t been. I’ve been talking about PETA. I don’t think you’re a part of peta, and have never said you were. This post is about peta, my responses have said “peta” and/or “groups like peta.” in fact, I have also said that peta is reformist in nature and not calling for any significant changes at all.

  87. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm |

    OK, Sorry. It gets tiring being compared to them a lot so I guess I am hypersensitive to it.

    It really bites trying to fight for something and have people look at you like an asshole because another group that does barely similar work does a bunch of messed up shite.

  88. shah8
    shah8 August 27, 2009 at 12:32 pm |

    ARPhilo, do you really realize how much of what you are saying is contingent on animals not being able to say what their preferred treatment is? You sound like the classic activist pissing about an imaginary strong point (you don’t mind me using pissing, right?) and defending all comers.

    Pretending that animals have choices and rights instead of resolving real conflicts between animal needs and human needs for all concerned is pathetic.

  89. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 12:42 pm |

    This will come as a relief to many readers, not excluding the many animal rights supporters whose cause is undermined by your willfully offensive stance that your privileged viewpoint is universal truth and anyone offended by it is hypersensitive. If you didn’t leave, you would probably be banned. Have a nice day!

    It’s true. They do threaten to ban quite often when someone disagrees with them.

    If you would really like me to address everything, I will though, just for you.

    chava said: …Do you really think that the institutions that allow you to be vegan are unproblematic? Is your tofu processed by non-exploited workers and grown without fertilizer that destroys water sources and fisheries? How many trees were cut down to grow it? What about the synthetic fibers you wear instead of leather? What do they release into our environment? Who sews them for you? My point here is that we all do the best we can with these choices, and not eating meat is only one choice among many–and it is not free of its own problems.

    A cow in a factory farm in the US leads a horrible life, and we have a responsibility as sentient beings to improve that life. But to say that it is “enslaved,” or part of a “mass murder” is insulting. It’s a stupid attempt to be “edgy” and force people to realize a moral eqivalency that doesn’t exist–at the expense of POC. If you refuse to see how depictions of farming as the Holocaust are disgusting and irrelevant, fine…

    As for conventionally grown vegetables and tofu- I buy organic, gather wild foods, buy local, fair trade, and/or dumpster dive. I have just as much a problem with GMOs, monsanto, globalization, worker exploitation, sweatshops, environmental destruction, and all of that as I do animal cruelty.

    I wear hemp, cotton, BIODEGRADABLE synthetic leather (unless I buy used or dumpster something in which case I am not too picky). Most of what I buy is used, but when I do buy new, I seek out sweatshop free fair trade companies. I am not big on business, but I try to pick the lesser evils.

    So, you were saying about all of the horrible things you think veganism automatically entails? There are plenty of vegetarians and vegans (of all colors, classes, locations, etc!) around the world in some of the poorest areas and they do just fine.

    How is a cow on a farm not enslaved? Even on the “humane” farms she is forcefully bred- restrained while either inseminated or while a bull screws her, she then has her babies taken from her to be made into veal or beef, as she is milked so humans can take the baby cow’s food. Then when she is “spent” she is killed, also for beef, most of the time at the same slaughterhouse that the factory farmed animals go to. That is the BEST scenario and is about 5% of the animal products out there. The rest is far worse.

    How is it offensive to you that that be compared to slavery and murder? An animal with a will to live and be free is reduced to a commodity. I’d say that’s exactly like slavery.

    If you refuse to see how depictions of farming as the Holocaust are disgusting and irrelevant, fine…

    I am not sure how you DON’T see the comparison. It is the Holocaust on a much larger scale, happening for a larger time, covering many more species, and involving much more ignored torture. I know this will piss all of you off, but the Holocaust pales in comparison to hundreds of thousands of years of the same things and worse happening to animals around the world.

  90. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 12:44 pm |

    ARPhilo, do you really realize how much of what you are saying is contingent on animals not being able to say what their preferred treatment is? You sound like the classic activist pissing about an imaginary strong point (you don’t mind me using pissing, right?) and defending all comers.

    Pretending that animals have choices and rights instead of resolving real conflicts between animal needs and human needs for all concerned is pathetic.

    So because they do not speak your language, their preferred treatment must be exploitation? That’s ridiculous.

  91. shah8
    shah8 August 27, 2009 at 12:47 pm |

    Let’s get to the real heart of this:

    Don’t cast animal rights in an anthropopmorphic light. It’s wrong, practically and morally. Both Caligula’s Horse and the people of Rome probably hated Caligula’s arraignment. Spotted Owls of the Pacific Northwest did not really benefit from being a charismatic animal. What was really needed was preservation of habitat and sensible regulation of non-protected forests. Yet we didn’t really have a debate along those lines, just about whether Spotted Owls had rights akin to people.

    Yet many animal rights activists constantly make such analogies such as Holocausts when they have such small comprehension of what it really meant. They make analogies to human victims of all stripes–stripping them of *human* context, not to mention their own personal context, and applying them to animals. These ties ignore that the structural desires of TPTB(capitalist) is specifically to tie POC to beasts of burden or harvest. That the advocacy will only undermine the welfare of POC for the dubious benefit of whatever animals that happen to be around white people just then.

    If you don’t do it, ARPhilo, then this line of argumentation isn’t directed at you. If the movement does, and you disagree with it, then it’s incumbent on you to help change the mentality rather than lash out at us.

  92. bfp
    bfp August 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm |

    Therefore, BOTH are raped, murdered, beaten, and killed and compared to each other as their suffering is SHARED.

    and that’s a connection that POC should be making themselves on their own terms–it should not be imposed on them, by anybody–because we live in an actively white supremacist society where trauma and violence is something that must be negotiated by poc and animals for *survival* (today, right now, as we speak). if a black woman says she’s not the same as a monkey and comes out swinging when you say she is–it’s NOT because she thinks she’s better than monkeys, it’s because her physical and mental and emotional body has been under attack since before she was born by white supremacy which declares SHE IS A MONKEY (not just “like” a monkey or the “same” as a monkey). It’s because she had uncles strung up and tortured and set on fire, because white supremacy says black people *are* monkeys.

    That is trauma and violence inflicted on her body , on her family, on her community *by animal comparisons*. It is a point of *safety* for her to say WE ARE NOT MONKEYS. It is a pint of RISK for her to say, I am the same as a monkey.

    It is a REAL RISK that brings on potentially devastating consequences. Murder. Rape. INstitutionalization. Disappearance. Lynching.

    Largely white organizations are taking a mighty risk with the bodies, hearts, minds, lives and communities of people who are not them.

  93. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 12:53 pm |

    and that’s a connection that POC should be making themselves on their own terms–it should not be imposed on them, by anybody–because we live in an actively white supremacist society where trauma and violence is something that must be negotiated by poc and animals for *survival* (today, right now, as we speak). if a black woman says she’s not the same as a monkey and comes out swinging when you say she is–it’s NOT because she thinks she’s better than monkeys, it’s because her physical and mental and emotional body has been under attack since before she was born by white supremacy which declares SHE IS A MONKEY (not just “like” a monkey or the “same” as a monkey). It’s because she had uncles strung up and tortured and set on fire, because white supremacy says black people *are* monkeys.

    And there I do agree with you whole-heartedly, which is why if I were speaking on a blog of a person who did not know better, I would not be so adamant and would be more sensitive to this. However, feministe bloggers have been talking down on animal rights for as long as I have been reading this thing, all because they can’t (and don’t want to) see past PETA. They have heard all of the arguments, they arguments make perfect sense, but they ignore them anyways and call anyone disagreeing with them RACIST.

    God forbid I call one of them hypersensitive as a result. If you can’t hear a counterargument without automatically resulting to calling someone racist, you are being hypersensitive, you know? Many are acting so persecuted by me but have no problem doling out insults in my direction.

    That is trauma and violence inflicted on her body , on her family, on her community *by animal comparisons*. It is a point of *safety* for her to say WE ARE NOT MONKEYS. It is a pint of RISK for her to say, I am the same as a monkey.

    It is a REAL RISK that brings on potentially devastating consequences. Murder. Rape. INstitutionalization. Disappearance. Lynching.

    Largely white organizations are taking a mighty risk with the bodies, hearts, minds, lives and communities of people who are not them.

    Yes, and this is why human and other animal liberation must go hand in hand. NO ONE IS FREE WHILE OTHERS ARE OPPRESSED.

  94. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 12:57 pm |

    If you don’t do it, ARPhilo, then this line of argumentation isn’t directed at you. If the movement does, and you disagree with it, then it’s incumbent on you to help change the mentality rather than lash out at us.

    I see a problem with anthropomorphizing but I ALSO see a problem with people taking every comparison from human to other human as anthropomorphism.

    Other animals very well can suffer, feel, love, hate, feel jealously, anger, think, and so on in many ways like humans do. They have many or all of the parts that we do that do this, just less of them.

    Dogs, Pigs, and other animals with similar mentalities can outwit 4 year old children in math, have the language capabilities of a 2 year old, and have the rich and intense social lives of teenagers. That is just using the speciesist “humans as a reference for intelligence” thing and still they excel.

    So, just because someone makes a comparison, s/he is not making the nonhuman into a human, but is showing how like us other animals are.

  95. shah8
    shah8 August 27, 2009 at 12:59 pm |

    A small aside:

    There is, and has always been, a strongly racist (and paternal) vein in animal rights and environmental activism. Not saying everyone is that way, but there always was going to be plenty of material to call racist on.

  96. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 1:08 pm |

    A small aside:

    There is, and has always been, a strongly racist (and paternal) vein in animal rights and environmental activism. Not saying everyone is that way, but there always was going to be plenty of material to call racist on.

    Just as there is always going to be patriarchy, white supremacy, speciesism, classism, xenophobia, ageism, and everything else in all other movements. It happens. People don’t see intersectionality.

    This is why I get loud when anti-racists are proud to be speciesist or when feminists are xenophobic or when animal rights activists are sexist or when international aid people are patriarchal.

    It happens. But if that’s all people can focus on, they are just as divisive.

  97. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 1:18 pm |

    Yes, Renee, I have sought out people of color, even though I have no idea who is a POC on here except those who have advertised it, while also coincidentally meeting many POCs in real life that completely understand where I am coming from but still am being racist against them by disagreeing with you on here, and have deliberately silenced all of their voices while at the same time, promoted white supremacy all so I can care about nonhuman animals more than people of color?!

    Are you kidding me?

  98. shah8
    shah8 August 27, 2009 at 1:23 pm |

    ARPhilo, since I’m sure that’s short for Animal Rights Philosophy…

    Where do rights come from?

  99. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm |

    Actually, Renee, I am intrigued. Can you actually show how I’ve been racist? I know you think I am racist because me disagreeing with you automatically set off the “racism” light in your brain (just like the “little monkey” doll that was black- even though there was one of every damned color- set off your angry persecution thing). Can you show me where I have been racist though?

    Is it because I have said that all humans are animals, regardless of race? Or is it because I haven’t singled out one race as incomparable to animals while others are? Is it because I have said speciesism is wrong no matter what race you are? Or is it because I have not singled out one or two races as separate from others in terms of when speciesism would be ok?

    Do you see what I am getting at here?

    1. Cara
      Cara August 27, 2009 at 1:34 pm |

      ARPhilo —

      Well, for a start, you’ve dismissed the very real concerns of POC as “hypersensitive,” you’ve pulled the “well I know some black people who don’t find it offensive!” card, and you even started crying “reverse racism” bullshit by claiming that you were being ganged up on because you’re white.

      So now you’re on mod for being an asshole, and then being an even bigger asshole when called out on your behavior, and I’m leaving it up to Renee on whether or not you’re banned, since it’s her thread and guest bloggers get the same kind of comment managing privileges here as do the regular bloggers.

  100. ARPhilo
    ARPhilo August 27, 2009 at 1:26 pm |

    ARPhilo, since I’m sure that’s short for Animal Rights Philosophy… Where do rights come from?

    I believe rights are inherent but that they also need to be fought for. I am not sure what kind of baited question this may be though since it’s turned back into feministe against AR again since I’m apparently such a bloody racist. So, can you clarify what kind of answer you would like?

  101. shah8
    shah8 August 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm |

    So you believe there is a Platonic ideal of rights available to be proximately concieved?

  102. Rebecca
    Rebecca August 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm |

    I am not sure how you DON’T see the comparison. It is the Holocaust on a much larger scale, happening for a larger time, covering many more species, and involving much more ignored torture. I know this will piss all of you off, but the Holocaust pales in comparison to hundreds of thousands of years of the same things and worse happening to animals around the world.

    I’m pissed off that you’re comparing a sapient human to a nonsapient animal. Does that make me “hypersensitive”?

    (Hi! I’m an Ashkenazi Jew. Most of my family died in the Holocaust.)

    And there I do agree with you whole-heartedly, which is why if I were speaking on a blog of a person who did not know better, I would not be so adamant and would be more sensitive to this. However, feministe bloggers have been talking down on animal rights for as long as I have been reading this thing, all because they can’t (and don’t want to) see past PETA. They have heard all of the arguments, they arguments make perfect sense, but they ignore them anyways and call anyone disagreeing with them RACIST.

    God forbid I call one of them hypersensitive as a result. If you can’t hear a counterargument without automatically resulting to calling someone racist, you are being hypersensitive, you know? Many are acting so persecuted by me but have no problem doling out insults in my direction.

    (emphasis added)

    1. is a lie. I have never seen a Feministe blogger argue against animal rights. By coming in here all offended whenever anyone objects to PETA’s racist or misogynist tactics, or to those of other animal-rights activists, you are betraying your real feelings on the subject.
    2. If you can’t make an argument without saying that sapient people of color are nonsapient animals, you are being racist, you know?

    This is your first comment, emphasis mine:

    Humans ARE animals. It’s not a “dehumanizing” thing. It’s what we are. You erred as soon as you wrote the title to this one.

    Why is it that other feminists are able to understand the connection between animal liberation and other movements (including civil rights, etc) but the people on feministe can not?

    I’m not a peta fan or anything but the fact that you can not separate the massive amount of animal activism from the tiny racist, sexist portion that is peta shows that you really don’t want to understand the connection.

    Humans and animals are not the same. Just like men and women are not the same. No one is asking for men to have the right to an abortion because men can’t get pregnant, just as no one is asking for a dog to have the right to vote because dogs can not vote.

    This is not an excuse however to demean animals as less than humans simply because they are different. In doing so, you are using the same logic that people have used in all movements to demean the worth of other humans and the planet.

    In waiting for humans to all get along in order to start on animals, you are missing the point entirely. Human suffering is linked to that of OTHER animals. The sooner we all realize this, the sooner we can work together more effectively to change our world.

    If it’s not about you, don’t make it about you unless you want to be linked to the subject of criticism.

  103. Ruchama
    Ruchama August 27, 2009 at 2:32 pm |

    For example, take people who profess they’re living cruelty-free lifestyles by not consuming meat. But they buy commercially grown produce, oblivious to how cruel commercial agriculture is to farm workers, most of whom are poc.

    My philosophy on all of this stuff is that I do the best that I can. I’m vegan, because that’s a really easy way to greatly decrease the amount of animal suffering that goes into my food and life. There isn’t such an easy way to do just one thing to decrease the human suffering, because of how decentralized our agriculture system is. I can look at a box of food and know for certain that there are no animal products in it. However, that box might have ingredients from ten different countries, processed at twenty different factories, and there’s no way to get all that information on the box. So, I do the best I can. Whenever possible, I buy organic, to reduce the amount of dangerous chemicals that the farm workers are exposed to. For products that I buy often, I look into the various companies that make them and try to decide which seems like the best, or at least not buy from the ones that are obviously the worst. I know that the “fair trade” label on chocolate doesn’t mean that everything is done perfectly, but at least it says that things are being done better. I buy from the farmers market when I can afford it, because that cuts out a lot of the processing and packaging steps where I know people can be exploited, and because it supports smaller farmers rather than industrial agriculture.

    I know that there is still some suffering that goes into what I buy, because that’s the nature of the system. Unless I go live on a farm and grow all my own food, that’s going to happen. But I do the best that I can with the time, money, and resources that I have.

    And most vegans that I know feel the same way. At least one vegan store has a big sign on their website that they don’t sell anything made in countries known for sweatshops, and they only sell things from countries with labor laws that do something to protect the workers.

    I know that my corner of the vegan world and vegan internet is not all vegans. But at the vegan message board that I frequent, almost nobody supports PETA. There are plenty of ways to get the animal rights message across without using the sort of tactics that PETA uses. Compassion Over Killing does good work, as does Farm Sanctuary, and a bunch of other groups that I could name, but PETA is the one that keeps getting the press, and they get the press exactly because of these tactics. Stuff like what PETA does gets in the newspapers. Compassion Over Killing tends to work on specific issues with specific companies, and has had success on a lot of their campaigns, but “Egg suppliers convinced to stop putting misleading ‘Animal Care’ sticker on their eggs” doesn’t make anywhere near as good a headline as “PETA dresses up like KKK.”

  104. Ruchama
    Ruchama August 27, 2009 at 2:39 pm |

    I am not sure how you DON’T see the comparison. It is the Holocaust on a much larger scale, happening for a larger time, covering many more species, and involving much more ignored torture. I know this will piss all of you off, but the Holocaust pales in comparison to hundreds of thousands of years of the same things and worse happening to animals around the world.

    No, it’s not the same. There are some similarities, but there are also HUGE differences. (And before anybody brings this one up, there’s a quote from Isaac Bashevis Singer that PETA has used in those ads, something like, “To animals, people are all Nazis. For them, it is an eternal Treblinka.” That quote is from a short story, said by a character in the midst of a breakdown. Isaac Bashevis Singer was a vegetarian and cared deeply about animal rights, but I’ve looked, and never found anywhere that he made a direct comparison like that when he was writing in his own voice, and he did write a whole lot about animals.)

  105. apasolini
    apasolini August 27, 2009 at 2:39 pm |

    I would refer the author to the book The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery by Marjorie Spiegel so she could get a less cliched and more sophisticated view of Animal Rights. I’d like to add that no human group is more oppressed than gay people – we don’t even have the right to marry and in most of the world our physical integrity is at risk (the persecutors being people from all races – what does that say about human beings?). Yet we don’t go around smearing other movements. And a lot of us work in Animal Rights because we do see a connection between all forms of oppression.

  106. chava
    chava August 27, 2009 at 2:55 pm |

    “My philosophy on all of this stuff is that I do the best that I can. I’m vegan, because that’s a really easy way to greatly decrease the amount of animal suffering that goes into my food and life.”

    YES. This I can get behind. We all do the best we can, and veganism is ONE choice among many that may help in the long run. If that’s the action you choose to take, I can get behind it, provided the next sentence isn’t “and it should be what everyone else chooses to do too.”

    ARPhilo–

    As for conventionally grown vegetables and tofu- I buy organic, gather wild foods, buy local, fair trade, and/or dumpster dive. I have just as much a problem with GMOs, monsanto, globalization, worker exploitation, sweatshops, environmental destruction, and all of that as I do animal cruelty.

    I wear hemp, cotton, BIODEGRADABLE synthetic leather (unless I buy used or dumpster something in which case I am not too picky). Most of what I buy is used, but when I do buy new, I seek out sweatshop free fair trade companies. I am not big on business, but I try to pick the lesser evils.

    So, you were saying about all of the horrible things you think veganism automatically entails? There are plenty of vegetarians and vegans (of all colors, classes, locations, etc!) around the world in some of the poorest areas and they do just fine.

    First, I wasn’t talking about you personally, but about the choice to become vegan as a whole as one that is complicated and sometimes problematic. I think Ruchama hits it best when she describes how every food item has 20 or 30 different intersecting issues, and a vegan diet is not necessarily more free from those issues than a responsible omnivores.

    Second–
    Wow, how nice that you have that much disposable income and time. The choices you outline from your personal life are, yes, still problematic in some ways, but chiefly they require a huge amount of time, money, and to an extent an inherent amount of racial and class privilege. As for the vegans around the world at all levels of poverty? Uh, no honey, not so much. It’s a luxury, one which lends a certain cachet to your street cred as a progressive.

  107. chava
    chava August 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm |

    My former comment is still in mod, but two quick things to add–

    –There is a debate re: sweatshop labor. I know it makes one feel good to buy “sweatshop free” goods, but every one of those sweatshop jobs is an income for someone and their family. Now, I’m not saying we should accept sweatshops with a smile and a song, but understanding that ANY job is better than NO job for many on this planet is an important step.

    –RE: veganism. I think my last comment may have come off a little too harsh. Veganism (and the local/fair trade/organic business as well) HAS become a kind of hip cultural cachet in parts of the developed would. That doesn’t mean that it can’t still be a meaningful choice for some.

  108. Felicity
    Felicity August 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm |

    I don’t know if ARPhilo has been banned, but if zie hasn’t:

    You claim to care about “respect” for animals yet still think they should be reduced to commodities for food, clothing, and entertainment.

    You have said that you yourself care about racism, but all you are being asked to do is remove one rhetorical tool from your toolbox, and you are unwilling. That’s often what it comes down to in discussions of oppressive language. People name their experience of oppression and say how language and metaphor (“lame”, “retarded”, “hysterical” or in this case the POC/animal metaphor) have furthered and exemplified that oppression. People who have not experienced this oppression often refuse to accept and act on their testimony.

    In your quote above, you accuse Renee of complicity in animal suffering because she does not make radical changes in her economic choices and life practices (and, if she believes as many here do that capitalistic change is not enough, changes in her focus as an activist.) Those are large changes. All you are asked to do in order to reduce your complicity in human suffering is stop using certain metaphors. But you refuse, and continue to use them here. Do you see why people think you yourself are lacking in respect?

    the Holocaust pales in comparison

    This is precisely what we’re discussing. You cannot use these rhetorical equivalencies without dismissing the oppression of humans. Not dismissing people’s experience of oppression is pretty much Social Justice 101, First Day of Class. This, along with the ongoing use of animal imagery bfp describes, is why you are asked to take this one tool out of your toolbox and drop it.

    1. Cara
      Cara August 27, 2009 at 3:29 pm |

      To answer the question: yes, ARPhilo has been banned.

  109. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 27, 2009 at 3:40 pm |

    the Holocaust pales in comparison

    No. No, it doesn’t. That you would dismiss something as horrific as the systematic torture and genocide of an entire people–or the systematic enslavement and continued oppression and brutality of Black people–really does prove Renee’s point.

  110. Ruchama
    Ruchama August 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm |

    YES. This I can get behind. We all do the best we can, and veganism is ONE choice among many that may help in the long run. If that’s the action you choose to take, I can get behind it, provided the next sentence isn’t “and it should be what everyone else chooses to do too.”

    Well, I do think that it would be great if more people became vegan, but there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to try to convince people to do it, and most of what PETA does is way over into the “inappropriate” category. (I won’t confront someone over the roast beef sandwich they’re eating, because that doesn’t convince anybody to become vegan, that just convinces people that vegans are assholes. If somebody asks me why I’m vegan, then I’ll tell them, and I’ll explain what the issues are in whatever way seems best for that person and situation. I’ve got various stuff related to veganism and animal rights taped to the wall above my desk in my office, and if someone asks what any of it means, I’ll tell them. Oh, and I bake lots of vegan cookies and cupcakes and give them to all my coworkers and classmates, which is partially to spread the “vegan food can taste delicious — we’re not deprived!” message, and partially because I like to bake when I get stressed out, because all that measuring and mixing helps calm me down, and I know I shouldn’t eat a whole tray of cupcakes and cookies by myself.)

  111. tanglad
    tanglad August 27, 2009 at 5:16 pm |

    Ruchama@107: “I do the best I can…”

    Is the “best [you] can” really limited to consumer choice, though? This was something that EV@40 was getting at too. Vegan consumption as something within your control to contribute to saving the planet, etc. I understand that by virtue of this economic system we’re all embroiled in, then there is not much we can do to ensure that totally no suffering goes into our consumption. Which is why buying the red ipod or the organic kale or all things “fair trade” (which btw often means it’s marketed better, not produced more humanely) is really just consumer choice. A choice you’re able to exercise because of privilege, and a choice that ultimately benefits the very conglomerates that contribute to the suffering of people and animals.

    So how about working on something within your control? I know someone who got into advocacy for farmworkers initially because of her concern over farm animals. After a long period of reflection, she felt that this joint advocacy is the best way she can help get agri conglomerates to initiate more humane conditions for workers and ultimately, farm animals.

    No, I don’t expect you to live on a farm. But one thing all AR activists have in their control is how they represent their movement. How about addressing the racism that Renee posted about? The sexism in campaigns such as PeTA’s? Working to build dialogues and community with people who may not initially be sympathetic to your cause, like non-vegetarian poc? Yes, I know that’s a lot of work, and it will take up a lot of time and resources on your part. But if you really want to be doing the best you can, I think it takes way more than deciding what to buy.

  112. sandwiches
    sandwiches August 27, 2009 at 5:49 pm |

    This post almost seems like a religious rant where preachers and priests refuse to accept that we’re animals because they feel it dehumanize us. Well, like it or not, we are animals. If you don’t believe that, that’s definitely your prerogative but your belief doesn’t change reality.

    If you feel that the statement that humans are animals is racist, i think it’s more of a reflection of yourself than of those making that statement.

  113. Feministe » Notes on Gore
    Feministe » Notes on Gore August 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm |

    [...] and PowerSonya on Six Women Murdered, Three Still Missing, and Nobody Seems to Noticetanglad on Are Animals and Humans the Same?Thomas on Stephen Moyer on Vampire Sex: Masculinity in True BloodAbby on Stephen Moyer on Vampire [...]

  114. Ruchama
    Ruchama August 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm |

    @tanglad: I would love to do more advocacy work, but at this point in my life, I can’t. I have limited time, money, energy, and mobility. That post was specifically addressing a comment about buying things.

  115. Michael
    Michael August 27, 2009 at 7:11 pm |

    I’ve finally thought of a phrasing that I’m interested to get people’s opinions on. If an AR activist put the biological fact about humans in the following form, do people think it’s also problematic?

    “Humans often tend to draw a boundary between themselves and animals. However, this boundary is arbitrary and there is no good reason to think it exists, at least as a basis to allow for mistreatment of animals. In fact, when you and I draw this boundary between ourselves and an animal, there’s a good chance we’re doing it simply in order to justify our mistreatment of animals.”

    To me this particular wording isn’t too problematic (although there’s still room to raise the fact that human/animal comparisons have been and continue to be misused to justify racism).

  116. Ruchama
    Ruchama August 27, 2009 at 7:22 pm |

    Also, about the Project Red thing: there’s a difference between that and food choices. Almost nobody needs a new iPod, whether red or not. We all need food. People who do have enough money to have the option of buying the iPod or not can make the choice to not buy it. Except for going freegan (which I so don’t have the resources to do), we can’t choose to not buy food. It has to come from somewhere. So I draw on the resources that I do have (more than some people, less than others) and the options available to me to try to pick the foods that seem to do the least harm.

  117. tanglad
    tanglad August 27, 2009 at 11:20 pm |

    Ruchama@119/121: I’m not criticizing anyone’s choice of consumption per se; it’s the presentation of such consumption as activism and therefore an excuse for not doing anything else that troubles me. Or worse, when the emphasis on choice of consumption becomes the focus, thus taking resources away from working towards systemic changes.

    I should note that the last two paragraphs of my post at #116 are not addressed only to you, but to people in the animal welfare/rights movements who wonder what are the things they can do that are within their control. The OP and numerous commenters above (chava, bfp, la lubu, a lot more) have already given a lot of suggestions oof steps that could be taken. Is it really that difficult to at least acknowledge the problematic language of equating human and animal suffering, in the context of how poc have historically been and are still being dehumanized? One doesn’t really need a ton of time or resources to take a stand against that. To voice such concerns to PeTA and other similar groups. To brainstorm other strategies/campaigns that do not reinforce racist imagery. (Okay, that last one might necessitate more resources, but not a lot, just brainstorming, you know?)

  118. Ruchama
    Ruchama August 28, 2009 at 12:25 am |

    I have acknowledged that problematic language. I have stated numerous times that I find that language problematic and wrong, and have no idea what is is that you think I should do toward “acknowledgment” that I haven’t done. I haven’t personally voiced any concerns to PETA, because I know other people who have done so and I know that it’s pointless — they’ll just add it to their “This campaign generated X email responses, Y hits to our website, and Z mentions in the press, so we know it’s working!” list. I’ve been involved in some internet discussions for thinking of better campaigns, but not much has directly come of those besides some blog posts and facebook groups. (There are several Vegans Against PETA blogs and groups.) There are plenty of other animal rights groups who are doing good things, but they don’t get the same sort of press that PETA gets, and when I do have time or money or energy to spare, which is very rare, I put it toward them. Check out Compassion Over Killing and Farm Sanctuary for some examples.

    I don’t see my veganism as activism, any more than I see taking public transportation or recycling my glass bottles as activism — I see it as trying to live my life while causing as little harm to others or the world as I can. What I would love to do sometime is help start a community garden and nutrition program in a neighborhood that doesn’t have access to healthy food, but that’s just not in the cards for now.

  119. tanglad
    tanglad August 28, 2009 at 12:58 am |

    @Ruchama:

    Yes, you did. I was focusing on our more recent conversations on consumption, and did not take into account your previous posts. I apologize for not acknowledging them, and appreciate that you did speak out about the problematic language.

    And I’m addressing the rest of this comment more generally now.

    I disagree though that challenging groups like PeTA on this problematic language is pointless. If only to keep on challenging them and to show solidarity with other social justice activists

  120. Natalia
    Natalia August 28, 2009 at 6:50 am |

    Again, one cannot be lower than an animal.

    That all depends, really. If I were granted genie powers today, and decided to turn you into a slug… We may not necessarily believe that you are “lower,” but something tells me you might not like the possibility very much anyway. Regardless of what you post here.

    Humans have evolved beyond most creatures on this planet, and that means we have both power & responsibility. I don’t accept, for example, that I am like all animals (for a full disclaimer I’m also somewhat religious, and an omnivore, so there is that). On the other hand, I also feel like we’re all in this together, meaning life on Earth, and we should be making the best of it.

    Problem is, like Renee outlined in her post, some people have downright insulting ideas about what making the best of it should look like.

  121. Equality Between Humans And Animals
    Equality Between Humans And Animals August 28, 2009 at 7:30 am |

    [...] or not Renee or anyone else eats dead animals isn’t the point,” wrote chava in response to my comment (paraphrased): The question is not whether humans and animals are equal, [...]

  122. Allen
    Allen August 28, 2009 at 10:42 am |

    Are animals and humans the same? What an odd and somewhat irrelevant question. Humans are unique when compared to other animals. But then, dolphins are unique when compared to other animals. So are pigs and chickens and fish. Yet, as animals, we all do share some relevant similarities. For example, cows and humans both have four limbs, similar skeletal structures, two eyes, a mouth, nose, a brain, a bladder, mammary glands and so on. All animals have nervous systems and are capable of experiencing pain and suffering as well as love and joy. I don’t think anyone would say it is inappropriate to point out the obvious anatomical similarities between humans and many other animals. So why is it so taboo to mention the emotional and psychological similarities between humans and other animals? Why is it inappropriate to point out the similarities between the ways that some humans have been (and still are) treated and the ways that some animals are treated? And more importantly, why bash those who encourage others to treat all animals with kindness? Most people who are willing to grant mercy to animals have more than enough to spare for their fellow humans. Compassion isn’t a limited commodity. We don’t have to save our compassion for a select few, we can and should extend our compassion to all sentient (feeling and thinking) beings.

    The oppression of animals and humans has gone hand and hand since the beginning. Sometime between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, nomadic human tribes started to settle down as farmers. This helped produce a more stable food supply, but made it more difficult for hunters to follow animal herds. To solve this problem, some people captured, confined and increasingly controlled some types of animals. They controlled nearly every aspect of these animals’ lives, including their mobility, sexuality and reproduction and used them for labor, food and fiber. This process of enslaving, exploiting and killing non-human animals became known as domestication.

    Once people figured out they could enslave and exploit other animals it didn’t take long before they figured out they could do the same thing to people. So, shortly after people started domesticating animals, they started raiding neighboring villages, killing the adult males and stealing their land, animals, women and children. Like enslaved animals, human women and children became the property of powerful men. The more land, animals, wives and human slaves a man had the more powerful he was. Thus the beginnings of human warfare, slavery, patriarchy and despotism erupted from the domestication, or enslavement of wild animals.

    There have always been those who have stood up against the oppression of humans and non-human animals. There have always been those who recognize that causing other sentient beings to suffer needlessly just because they aren’t exactly like us or because we have more power is wrong. Might does not make right. There have always been those who understand that the “us” versus “them” argument that allows some humans to oppress other humans is the same mentality that allows human animals to oppress other animals. The reason that some people find it offensive when the similarities between humans and non-human animals are pointed out is because these people hold to the mentality of “us” verses “them.” They view humans as uniquely worthy of consideration and all other animals animals as the “other” and therefore unworthy of consideration.

    To be compared to the “other” is viewed as dehumanizing to those who view the world with this “us” versus “them” mentality. For those with this mentality, it is often offensive to be compared to the “other” whether it is to compare white people to black people, or to compare men to women, or to compare humans to animals. But to those who don’t see non-human animals as objects of scorn any more than non-white humans or non-male humans are deserving of scorn, the comparison of humans to other animals is not dehumanizing. It is simply accurate.

  123. Scott
    Scott August 28, 2009 at 2:02 pm |

    Sheelzebub,

    “No. No, it doesn’t. That you would dismiss something as horrific as the systematic torture and genocide of an entire people–or the systematic enslavement and continued oppression and brutality of Black people–really does prove Renee’s point.”

    No, actually , it doesn’t prove Renees’ point at all. And for you to have a valid point you have to have evidence of what you claim: namely, that human suffering matters more than non-human animal suffering. If anything, it was the Nazis who were adhering to Renee’s dcitum of specisisim, in that they were making value judgments based on biological as opposed to morally relevant criteria.

    I’ll save everyone the trouble of banning me and simply not return here. I have classes to teach and things to do. I only happened here while trying to find sites appropriate for my 7 year old daughter to visit. I’m happy to suspect that even she would find most of the “arguments” presented here to be bullsh*t.

  124. Scott
    Scott August 28, 2009 at 2:06 pm |

    One last point,

    Natalia
    “Humans have evolved beyond most creatures on this planet”

    That you think that anything can evolve “beyond” anything else shows that you have no idea what evolution by natural selection actually entails. There are various books available on the subject that you should try reading.

  125. chava
    chava August 28, 2009 at 2:42 pm |

    Oh, I love the smell of idiotic evo biologists sans proof in the morning.

    Hunting wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for the animals involved, Allen. Ever hear of the entire herds of horse skeletons found at the bottom of cliffs? What about the extinction of the mammoths? And where on earth did you find evidence that slavery post-dates the domestication of animals???

    Yeah, hunting and gathering was just PEACHY for all concerned. That whole “not starving in winter thing” is just SO underrated.

  126. Allen
    Allen August 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm |

    Hi Chava,

    I’m not sure where you get off calling me an idiot or what point you are trying to make about the fact that humans may have hunted some animals to extinction or driven entire herds off of cliffs. Is it appropriate to resort to name calling when you don’t agree with someone? Why are you so angry?

    I never said that hunting and gathering is “peachy for all concerned.” I said that human slavery has its roots in animal domestication. For more information about that, try reading Charles Patterson, Ph. D. here: http://www.dyrevern.no/Emner/forbruker_og_samfunn/134/313/Artikler/1466 or check out the book “Animals, Disease and Human Society: Human-animal Relations and the Rise of Veterinary Medicine” by Joanna Swabe.

    My point was that since slavery can be traced back to the domestication (or enslavement) of animals, and because the treatment of domestic animals and human slaves is often similar, it is entirely appropriate for people to point it out.

    A problem I see with some of the people commenting here is that they find being called an animal offensive because they view non-human animals as inferior. Well, racists find being compared to other races offensive because they view other races as inferior. Sexist men find being compared to women offensive because they view women as inferior. Speciesists find being compared to non-human animals offensive because they view non-human animals as inferior.

    Historically, social justice movements haven’t tried to equate different races or genders. I think we all understand that there are differences between men and women. But we also understand that those differences are not always relevant to the ways that men and women are treated. Just because someone was born a woman does not mean that she should be treated poorly, denigrated or otherwise abused. Just because someone was born with black skin instead of white skin doesn’t mean it is okay to enslave that person or otherwise abuse him or her. Similarly, just because a cow is not exactly the same as a human does not mean it is okay to exploit the cow and cause her to suffer needlessly.

    The animal rights movement doesn’t want to grant equal rights to non-human animals. The animal rights movement simply wants animals to be left alone and not made to suffer needlessly just because they weren’t fortunate enough to be born human.

    P.S. Modern theory holds that climate change, not human hunters, drove mammoths and other large mega fauna to extinction.

  127. chava
    chava August 28, 2009 at 5:03 pm |

    Oh, I’m not angry. I’m entertained. I get off calling your post stupid because, well, it’s ill-informed and makes assumptions about human history for which, quite frankly, there is zero proof.

  128. Natalia
    Natalia August 28, 2009 at 5:15 pm |

    That you think that anything can evolve “beyond” anything else shows that you have no idea what evolution by natural selection actually entails. There are various books available on the subject that you should try reading.

    Power and responsibility, Scott, power and responsibility. We have the first, but not so much of the latter. That’s what I meant when I was talking about our evolution. In fact, that’s what I said.

    So I do get to turn you into a slug? It will make my genie powers all the more interesting when I do get them.

  129. chava
    chava August 28, 2009 at 5:31 pm |

    Let’s start with the first post:

    The oppression of animals and humans has gone hand and hand since the beginning. Sometime between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, nomadic human tribes started to settle down as farmers. This helped produce a more stable food supply, but made it more difficult for hunters to follow animal herds. To solve this problem, some people captured, confined and increasingly controlled some types of animals. They controlled nearly every aspect of these animals’ lives, including their mobility, sexuality and reproduction and used them for labor, food and fiber. This process of enslaving, exploiting and killing non-human animals became known as domestication.

    First of all, this portion of your post completely ignores nomadism as a form of societal organization. Second of all, as nomadism shows, industrialized agriculture did not go hand in hand with domestication in all cases (i.e , and certainly is certainly not synonymous with the idea of human slavery. You assume causation from an assumption of correlation which is itself unproven.

    Once people figured out they could enslave and exploit other animals it didn’t take long before they figured out they could do the same thing to people. So, shortly after people started domesticating animals, they started raiding neighboring villages, killing the adult males and stealing their land, animals, women and children. Like enslaved animals, human women and children became the property of powerful men. The more land, animals, wives and human slaves a man had the more powerful he was. Thus the beginnings of human warfare, slavery, patriarchy and despotism erupted from the domestication, or enslavement of wild animals.

    Again, mistaking (unproven) correlation for causation. It IS true that industrialized agriculture began the patrilineal passage of land from father to son, which is thought to have instituted many of the strictures around female sexuality that endure to this day. However, the domestication of animals did not suddenly turn the human mind to slavery and violence!

    Your line of reasoning here is offensive in that it assumes that the “savage” man, pre-industrialized agriculture or animal domestication, was somehow immune to concepts of violence, sexism, or misogyny. It rests on an Edenic myth which would posit hunter-gatherer cultures as more pacifistic and “pure” than cultures which have been sullied by animal “enslavement,” which, in your scenario, somehow generates more violence in the human mind than hunting.

    My point was that since slavery can be traced back to the domestication (or enslavement) of animals, and because the treatment of domestic animals and human slaves is often similar, it is entirely appropriate for people to point it out.

    Ok, this is from your second post. However, it sums up the flaw in your logic quite well. Even if slavery DID begin to occur contemporaneously to animal domestication, assuming that one caused the other is NOT appropriate.

    As for your comment about the mammoths, modern theory as far as I know is still split on the subject, and considers that it may be a combination of several factors.

  130. Allen
    Allen August 29, 2009 at 9:47 am |

    Chava, you are making unfair assumption about my “line of reasoning” and you are arguing against things that I never said or even implied. Certainly human cruelty toward animals and other humans predates animal domestication. Of course, that point doesn’t exactly advance the cause of human superiority over other animals though does it?

    The link between animal domestication and human slavery is as strong and widely accepted as the link between patrilineal decent and the institution of “many of the strictures” around female sexuality. The idea that land and other living beings can be property seems to have started with the agricultural revolution and animal domestication. But since you seem to be arguing about points I never even made, I’ll move on…

    The mindset that allows powerful humans to oppress, exploit and kill other animals is the same mindset that allows powerful humans to oppress, exploit and kill other humans. The mindset is that humans, or a certain group of humans (i.e. white, land owning males) are superior to all others.

    The racist says: “Since other races are inferior, their enslavement and exploitation is justified.” The abolitionists say that other races are different, not inferior, and their oppression is not justified.

    The sexist says: “Since women are inferior to men, the restriction of their sexuality, mobility, and other rights is justified.” Feminists say that women are different, not inferior, and their oppression is not justified.

    The speciesist says: “Since all other animal are inferior to humans, any amount of oppression, exploitation or abuse is justified.” The animal rights position is that animals are different, not inferior, and their oppression is not justified.

  131. Allen
    Allen August 29, 2009 at 9:53 am |

    I think that sometimes a change in perspective is helpful. Perhaps these hypothetical scenarios will offer a needed change in perspective for some:

    Scenario #1: A deeply sexist man decides to undergo psychiatric counseling after a traumatic experience.

    Counselor: Why don’t you start by telling me what happened?

    Sexist Man: Well Doc, I was walking home from work the other night and decided to take a shortcut down a dark alley. Then, suddenly, a group of men jumped out from behind a dumpster and grabbed me… Then… Uh…

    Counselor: Please go on. I know this is difficult, but I am here to help you.

    Sexist man: One of the men had a knife and threatened to kill me if I cried out for help. Then… then they started to beat me. They ripped off my clothes and threw me on the ground… and… well, they made me their b*#ch.

    Counselor: You mean they raped you?

    Sexist man: No! I wasn’t raped. Only women get raped. I’m not a woman! How dare you compare me to a woman!

    Counselor: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say you are a woman. I just meant that… well, men can be raped too.

    Sexist man: Screw you Doc! I am not a woman! How dare you emasculate me like this!?!

    Scenario #2: A speciesist woman asks a vegan woman why she doesn’t eat cheese:

    Speciesist: I don’t understand what is wrong with cheese. If the cows are treated well, what’s the problem?

    Vegan: The problem is that the cows aren’t treated well. Like humans, and all mammals, cows have to be pregnant or nursing in order to produce milk. So dairy farmers keep cows in a constant cycle of pregnancy so they can be milked continuously. Many dairy farmers use what is called a “rape rack” to artificially inseminate cows. The cows don’t get to choose their mates. Instead they are sexuality violated, or raped. When their babies are born, they are often immediately taken from their mothers, or kidnapped, so that all of their mother’s milk can be sold for profit. This is, of course, very traumatic for both the mother and her child. Mother cows have been known to cry for days after their babies were taken from them. The baby cows are usually murdered for veal before they are even 6 months old. After about 5 or 6 years of being raped, violated, and having their babies kidnapped, dairy cows’ bodies are so worn out that farmers call them “spent.” These cows are then murdered and turned into hamburger. Actually, tens of millions of dairy cows are systematically murdered each year for their flesh. It’s like a holocaust for cows!

    Speciesist: You crazy vegan! How dare you compare dairy farmers to rapists and murderers. How dare you compare what happens to cows to the Holocaust! Cows are just animals! It’s dehumanizing to say they are the same as people!

    Vegan: I’m not saying that cows are the same as people. I’m saying that sexually violating and needlessly killing animals is cruel and I don’t want to support it.

    Speciesist: Yeah, but you dared compare what is done to animals who are raised for food to crimes against people! You are making a mockery of the pain and suffering that rape victims and Holocaust survivors have endured! You are disgusting!

    Vegan: But wait! I think you have misunderstood what I am trying to say. I don’t think it is okay for people to rape and murder other people either? I think the Holocaust was terrible and I feel great sympathy for those who were killed or who lost loved ones. I’m simply trying to say that needlessly harming others is wrong. I don’t think that humans OR cows should be abused in these ways.

    Speciesist: You can’t compare humans to animals. Humans are not animals! We are able to use reason and drive cars! We are better than animals. What the Nazi’s did to Jews during the Holocaust was beyond evil! Holocaust victims were forced out of their homes and onto train stock cars. They were herded like mere animals to their deaths! It was disgusting. How dare you minimize their suffering by saying that dairy is like the Holocaust for cows! There is a big difference between eating meat or cheese and the Holocaust. Afterall, other animals eat animals, so why is it wrong for humans to eat animals?

    Vegan: I’m confused, aren’t you comparing humans to animals when you justify eating meat by saying that some animals eat meat? And didn’t you compare humans to animals when you said that Holocaust victims were “herded like mere animals” onto stock cars? In other words, you think it is appropriate to characterize the mistreatment of human victims in terms of how animals are treated, but not the other way around. Is that what you are saying?

    Speciesist: Argh! I’m going to eat three cows for every cow you don’t eat just to teach you a lesson!

  132. Rebecca
    Rebecca August 29, 2009 at 10:33 am |

    The racist says: “Since other races are inferior, their enslavement and exploitation is justified.” The abolitionists say that other races are different, not inferior, and their oppression is not justified.

    The sexist says: “Since women are inferior to men, the restriction of their sexuality, mobility, and other rights is justified.” Feminists say that women are different, not inferior, and their oppression is not justified.

    The anti-racist and feminist position has never been that POC or women are “separate but equal.”

  133. Allen
    Allen August 29, 2009 at 12:06 pm |

    Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comment. I said “different, but not inferior” which is not the same as saying “separate but equal.” White, southern males are different than black, African women. They have different skin colors, different genitalia, different hormone levels, different cultures, different worldviews. They are different. But that doesn’t mean that one is inferior to the other. However, racists and sexists use these differences and their own prejudice against anyone who isn’t “like them” to justify oppression. Similarly, humans and non-human animals are different. But do the differences between humans and non-humans animals justify oppression? Do the differences between humans and non-human animals make comparisons of similar traits or treatment invalid?

    The title of the post is “Are Animals and Humans the Same?” The argument in the post is that some AR groups wrongly think that humans and animals are equal. My point is that AR groups don’t think humans and animals are the same. The AR position is that the differences between humans and non-human animals don’t justify oppression any more than the differences between white people and black people or men and women justify oppression.

    In the words of Alice Walker, “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”

    In the words of Nelson Mandela: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

  134. shah8
    shah8 August 29, 2009 at 12:43 pm |

    Ok, I’m calling this.

    Don’t argue with people on philosophical tangents when neither you or she knows how to think and speak philosophically.

    It just turns into a whole series of unreadable posts.

    And Allen‘s ideas, besides being long-winded and wrong, are spectacularly unrelated to the focus of the damned thread.

  135. chava
    chava August 29, 2009 at 12:49 pm |

    shah8, if you’re referring to me, I wasn’t trying to speak philosophically–just revist basic anthropology and human history.

    Anyway, I engaged because of Allen’s claims on the origins of human slavery, which did seem relevant to the thread. However, it’s become a rather spectacular case of feeding the troll, for which I do apologize.

  136. Allen
    Allen August 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm |

    Wow! Despite being insulted at every turn and not responding in kind, I’m the troll? Since when is stating an opinion considered trollish behavior? Or is that I have a contrary opinion?

    Shah8, I apologize for being long-winded. But if the focus of the thread isn’t whether or not it is appropriate for animal rights groups to compare the maltreatment of humans and animals, what is it? If I am wrong for taking the position that such comparisons are appropriate, why am I wrong? And please, if you will, enlighten on proper philosophical discourse.

  137. shah8
    shah8 August 29, 2009 at 1:45 pm |

    chava, sorry if I sounded harsh.

    Allen, you aren’t really engaging Renee‘s point and saying quite a bit while not engaging.

    As for proper philosophical discourse, I will be happy with people not thinking that genocide and extinction have similar profiles. I will be happy when people have a strong understanding what rights are, and why an animal’s inability to say no means that they do not have rights in the way people do. Rights are fucking self-determined, all-right? It’s not up to you to decide what animals have rights and how those rights interact with our own. It’s only up to you to decide how you should respect an animal’s existence. It’s only up to you to decide how your society treats something with as little choice as a pet or livestock animals.

    What Renee said was comparing people’s (who can say no, who can protest their treatment and advocate for appropriate treatment) tragedies to animals (who can’t do any of the above) is highly undesired because oppression routinely prefers that the oppressed act like animal without voices. So there is a long history of this. So animal rights advocates are asked not to do that.

    You are not responsive to the why not? You mostly just affirm your right to use these comparisons and not even really take the effort to consiously dismiss Renee’s concerns. You retreat to the particulars of an event of, say, rape, pretend that the denatured rape wasn’t robbed of the cultural elements and compare it with the exploitation of a cow. You pretend that we have no concern for the cow, and you pretend that there aren’t highly expressive ways to depict a cow’s treatment without referring to some woman’s rape.

  138. Allen
    Allen August 29, 2009 at 2:40 pm |

    Ah, I see. You seem to be mistaking proper philosophical discourse to mean that people must agree with your worldview. And like Chava and Rebecca, you also argue against things I haven’t said nor even implied. For example, the words genocide and extinction never appear in my posts nor do I say they have similar profiles. You are not really engaging my point. In fact, based on your comments, I’m not convinced you have even read my posts.

    I’m also not convinced you have an adequate understanding of what rights are. My understanding is that rights are entitlements of a moral nature. Rights are things the powerful grant to the powerless. As a member of the species in power and as a moral person, I believe I have the right and an obligation to speak up for the rights of the powerless, including humans and non-humans, especially if they don’t have the ability to speak for themselves.

    Your prejudice against non-human animals is glaring. “Pets” and “livestock” are thinking, sentient beings and they say “no” to abusive treatment all of the time. They cry out, they try to escape, they sometimes attack (or protest against) their abusers. The problem is that their protests are ignored and/or marginalized. The problem is that, like other marginalized groups, animals are at the mercy of those in power.

    I understand that asking people to see things from an animal’s perspective by using analogies to human suffering provokes strong emotions and sometimes revulsion. I understand that people who view animals as inferior are outraged when compared to animals just as sexist men are outraged when compared to women and racists are outraged when compared to other races. The point is that the outrage stems from prejudice. It stems from viewing someone who is not like you as inferior.

    I would be interested in hearing your views on why it seems to be appropriate for people to say things like “Holocaust victims were treated like animals” but not “animals are treated like Holocaust victims.”

    Further, and at the risk of being long-winded and making things difficult for those with questionable literacy or short attention spans, every one of Renee’s examples is from someone or something other than an animal rights advocate or group. Straw men?

    I agree that the comparison of Obama to a chimpanzee is racist as is the comment that an escaped gorilla was an ancestor of the first lady. These are all comments made by racists speciesists who view animals as inferior to humans and compare black people to animals in order to denigrate them. But when a group like PETA says that the systematic and needless torture and killing of animals is akin to slavery or the Holocaust, they aren’t saying that animals are inferior or that oppressed people are ‘dirty, stupid’ animals. They are saying that neither people (of any race, gender, sexuality, age etc.) nor animals should be treated in these ways. Only people who view animals as inferior beings, or speciesists, would take offense to that.

  139. shah8
    shah8 August 29, 2009 at 3:24 pm |

    I am rather explosively against the notion that rights are what the powerful grants to the powerless. I think that is obscene.

    I think that in the process of determining that you are the powerful, you grant yourself the right to silence the complaint of women and minorities in favor the powerless you favor.

    There is no fucking common ground to talk about.

  140. Allen
    Allen August 29, 2009 at 3:38 pm |

    In case I misunderstand your meaning, what are your trying to say here?: “I think that in the process of determining that you are the powerful, you grant yourself the right to silence the complaint of women and minorities in favor the powerless you favor.” I mean, that sentence doesn’t even make sense.

    But back to what rights areand what they aren’t. I think the idea that rights are “fucking self-determined” is obscenely naïve. Slaves (of any race) are unable to grant themselves any kind of meaningful rights. They are entirely at the mercy of their “masters.” In the U.S., it was up to the morality of some white men in power to grant slaves the rights of free men. Prior to women’s suffrage, women were unable to grant themselves rights. It was up to men in power to grant the right to vote to women. Similarly, non-human animals are unable to grant themselves the right not to be abused or exploited. It is up to humans in power to grant them these rights.

  141. Allen
    Allen August 29, 2009 at 4:16 pm |

    Last comment for the day. I believe it is naïve for Renee or anyone else to believe that they speak for all POC and women when they reject comparisons of the animal rights movement to other social justice movements. In fact, there have been and still are plenty of leading social justice leaders who make this very same comparison.

    Coretta Scott King, wife or Martin Luther King Jr., was vegan and was in favor of animal rights. Coretta and Martin Luther King’s son Dexter, considers veganism the “logical extension” of his father’s philosophy of nonviolence.

    Alice Walker, an African American woman and famous social justice leader, said “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They are not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women for men.”

    Dick Gregory, an African American man and civil rights leader, said “In like manner, if the wealthy aristocrats who are perpetrating conditions in the ghetto actually heard the screams of ghetto suffering, or saw the slow death of hungry little kids, or witnessed the strangulation of manhood and dignity, they could not continue the killing. But the wealthy are protected from such horror…If you can justify killing to eat meat, you can justify the conditions of the ghetto. I cannot justify either one.” He also said “Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel, and brutal taking of life.”

    Cesar Chavez, a Mexican-American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist, said “I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom. It was my dog Boycott who led me to question the right of humans to eat other sentient beings.” He also said ““We need, in a special way, to work twice as hard to make all people understand that animals are fellow creatures and that we must protect them and love them as we love ourselves. And that the basis of peace is respecting all creatures.”

    Marjorie Spiegel, a female author, wrote “The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery” which dares outline the similarities between human slavery and animal domestication.

    Jewish author Charles Patterson dares explore the similarities between the Holocaust and the treatment of animals in his book “Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust.”

    One of the positions of the Black Vegetarians groups is that “animals have an inherent right to exist for their own purposes and not to satisfy the wants of humans.” In fact, there us a great interview on BlackVegetarians.org with members from Justice for All Species (JAS). JAS is an organization of people of color with the mission of providing resources to communities of color to promote a vegetarian. This interview really ties it together. Here is one snippet from an interview filled with excellent questions:
    BV: What are your thoughts about the comparison made between the enslavement of people of African descent by whites and the oppression of animals in factory farms by humans?

    KC: While I can understand why some people might be offended by being compared to an “animal,” I always remember that humans are animals, too. Such comparisons are demeaning only if you make them so. So when I see pictures of animals enslaved in factory farms, I do see a connection between their condition and the unconscionable suffering that my ancestors had to go through under slavery by white domination. Humans dominate over animals because we can, not because it’s right to do, or we have to do it to survive. Factory farms and corporations profit from animal suffering, just as slave owners profited from my ancestors. I can see parallels in the oppression and the treatment of animals, and of slaves, as well as the motivations of the powerful to dominate over someone, and profit from them. Anyone interested in these connections should definitely check out Marjorie Spiegel’s book, The Dreaded Comparison.

    TM: I have no problem with the comparison of humans with other species. It’s no different then comparing a raccoon with a wolf. There are significant similarities, such as self-awareness, the ability to feel pain, the desire to protect our young, intelligence and social culture. There are also significant differences that vary depending on species. This is the case with all species including humans regardless of their ancestry.
    So I am comfortable with members of other species being compared as sentient beings with all people, including those of us of African descent. We cannot deny the connection with capture, transport, breeding, confinement, and denial of physical integrity.

    However, I am concerned about who is not being compared to animals. When the comparisons made by animal rights groups focus solely on communities that have been “treated like animals,” read Blacks, Women and Jews, the chance of white men, often the architects of such systems, being compared to other species is rare. This leaves them in a class unto themselves, and may unwittingly reinforce an existing hierarchy of oppression.

    We need to continue to broaden the comparisons to include the power structures, economics, and cultural ideologies that allow and accept the torture of entire classes of beings. After all, these atrocities don’t happen in a vacuum and viewing them in context, equitably calls everyone to account for both the problems and solutions.

  142. William
    William August 30, 2009 at 1:32 am |

    In case I misunderstand your meaning, what are your trying to say here?: “I think that in the process of determining that you are the powerful, you grant yourself the right to silence the complaint of women and minorities in favor the powerless you favor.” I mean, that sentence doesn’t even make sense.

    Really? Because I didn’t have much trouble parsing Shah8’s meaning. Maybe he missed a word (there should probably be an “of” between “favor” and “the” at the end), but the meaning seemed pretty clear to me. It looked like he was calling you out on the privilege you seem so blissfully unaware of.

    But back to what rights areand what they aren’t. I think the idea that rights are “fucking self-determined” is obscenely naïve.

    I think thats your poor command of western philosophy and political theory showing through. There are certainly a lot of different views as to what rights and and where they come from. One of the few things that isn’t included in that is the theory you seem to be putting forward. Rights, pretty much be definition, cannot be what the powerful allow to the powerless. That would be an allowance (or a privilege, or any of a dozen other words used to capture some nuance of the concept). What sets the concept of rights apart is that they are intrinsic and theoretically insulated from privation. Rights are an expression of a given set of values, the line which is drawn beyond which the law is not allowed to extend.

    Now, there is certainly a valid argument to be made that rights are illusory and all that exists is a complex network of privileges based upon differing levels of social power, but thats really a relativist/constructionist argument which runs counter to the argument you seem to be making. The argument you seem to be making is that animals deserve the same rights as people and that we, as the powerful party, ought to grant these rights. However, if the powerful are able to grant rights, you’re essentially making the argument that rights are a social agreement. If thats the case, then the social agreement is that animals don’t get rights and the issue is settled. That you (and a great many other people) clearly don’t feel that way suggests that when you say rights you’re talking about a moral imperative, you’re talking about something intrinsic, something which is fundamentally right. That kind of undercuts your assertion that rights come from the powerful and are given to the weak.

    Still, the bottom line is that rights are a concept, not a static and objective Thing (with a capital “t”). To talk about what they are and aren’t as if you’re going to get to some absolute Truth speaks to either a poor grasp of the underlying theory or an especially strident example of logical positivism that is itself “obscenely naive.”

    Slaves (of any race) are unable to grant themselves any kind of meaningful rights.

    Well, thats going to depend on the relative concentrations of power amongst the various groups involved. The gay rights movement in the US didn’t wait around to be handed rights by heterosexual authorities. Neither did the American or French revolutionaries wait for their respective kings to being respecting the rights they were asserting.

    In the U.S., it was up to the morality of some white men in power to grant slaves the rights of free men.

    You seem to be misunderstanding rights and oppression. A right is not only held when it is capable of being exercised, thats kind of the point of a right. It is held regardless. However the presence of a right transforms the person prohibiting it’s exercise into a tyrant. Its a matter of morals, values, and perceptions. A right can be trodden upon, however the person doing the trodding becomes someone who can rightfully be called a tyrant and dealt with accordingly. At their core, rights are a justification for political violence, thats why the Black Panthers used phrases like “by any means necessary” and carried guns.

    Prior to women’s suffrage, women were unable to grant themselves rights. It was up to men in power to grant the right to vote to women

    And the little ladies just sat at home knitting and birthing babies while the menfolk magnanimously and villainously fought amongst themselves over the relative merits of the fairer sex being considered humans rather than property, right?

    I must admit, I wonder if you realize that, by your logic, the only thing which allowed African Americans to be people instead of farm animals or women to be humans instead of baby factories was a dispensation from powerful white men. I find the concept utterly repugnant and reeking of both unrestrained privilege and primitive omnipotence.

    Similarly, non-human animals are unable to grant themselves the right not to be abused or exploited. It is up to humans in power to grant them these rights.

    But, if your conception of rights follows, why should we? What makes animals worthy of being granted rights? Or perhaps rights aren’t something that is granted but something that is…self-evident? Perhaps they are endowed by a creator or by nature? Perhaps they are simply what is right? Ahh, but that seems dangerously close to the “obscenely naive” concept that rights are self-determined.

  143. Rebecca
    Rebecca August 30, 2009 at 1:57 pm |

    Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comment. I said “different, but not inferior” which is not the same as saying “separate but equal.” White, southern males are different than black, African women. They have different skin colors, different genitalia, different hormone levels, different cultures, different worldviews. They are different. But that doesn’t mean that one is inferior to the other. However, racists and sexists use these differences and their own prejudice against anyone who isn’t “like them” to justify oppression. Similarly, humans and non-human animals are different. But do the differences between humans and non-humans animals justify oppression? Do the differences between humans and non-human animals make comparisons of similar traits or treatment invalid?

    “Different, but not inferior” does, actually, sound exactly like “separate but equal.”

    White southern men and black African women are, all cultural indoctrination out of the equation, functionally identical. There is nothing intrinsically “different” about the way women and men, or POC and whites, think. They are equally capable of, say, voting.

    If you give a ballot to a cow, the cow will have no idea what it is. You cannot educate a cow to be able to vote.

    I get that your point is that “like and equal are not the same thing” (to quote L’Engle), but you’re completely missing the point on why it is offensive to compare a human to an animal.

  144. chava
    chava August 30, 2009 at 2:18 pm |

    OK, I realize this is not apropos to the current discussion, but I wanted to correct my last post—

    “Nomadism” should have read “pastoralism.” Sorry, it’s been bugging me all day.

    Carry on.

  145. Scu
    Scu August 30, 2009 at 10:34 pm |

    I have posted my response to this interesting blog post over at my own blog. http://criticalanimal.blogspot.com/2009/08/people-of-color-and-humananimal-divide.html

  146. islakay
    islakay August 31, 2009 at 1:35 am |

    Two points to make: if you talk about white privilege, you must also acknowledge your human privilege, or as you put it your “top of the food chain” privilege. What if you were born another species?

    Secondly, animal rights in Vancouver is completely multicultural and I have friends of many nationalities here who come together to end these oppressive systems.

  147. Humans and other Animals « PHILOSOPHY IN A TIME OF ERROR

    [...] « Clovis Humans and other Animals August 31, 2009 Renee at Womanist Musings and Feministe had a post up on the perhaps perverse effect of the animal rights’ movement on the politics [...]

  148. William
    William August 31, 2009 at 1:10 pm |

    Two points to make: if you talk about white privilege, you must also acknowledge your human privilege, or as you put it your “top of the food chain” privilege. What if you were born another species?

    If we want to call someone out on white privilege we only get to do it if we concede your basic point? First, thats called dictation, not discussion. Second, that sounds like privilege talking. You’ll notice I called you out on that without conceding shit. The reason for that is pretty simple: whether I agree with your basic point or not, responding to an accusation of privilege with “yeah, whatever, back to what I was talking about” is pretty much just proving the accusation in the first place. Which brings us to the second part of your post…

    Secondly, animal rights in Vancouver is completely multicultural and I have friends of many nationalities here who come together to end these oppressive systems.

    So you’re not/can’t/aren’t-really exhibiting privilege, but even if you were it’d be cool ’cause you totally know some people of color/women/homosexuals/trans* people and they agree with you so it doesn’t count? Really? The old “I have friends who are X” trope? Also, where are they? I scrolled through your blog (which, ironically, doesn’t work so well on an open source browser) and what struck me was just how white all the pictures were, even the crowd scenes. Unless you count Michael Vick and a few cops busting up a protest. Just sayin’…

  149. Roy
    Roy August 31, 2009 at 1:58 pm |

    “Different, but not inferior” does, actually, sound exactly like “separate but equal.”

    White southern men and black African women are, all cultural indoctrination out of the equation, functionally identical. There is nothing intrinsically “different” about the way women and men, or POC and whites, think. They are equally capable of, say, voting.

    If you give a ballot to a cow, the cow will have no idea what it is. You cannot educate a cow to be able to vote.

    Why is that relevant? Not all human beings are capable of voting. My niece is five–the concept of voting is pretty much beyond her understanding right now. There are plenty of human beings who will never have the mental capacity to dress themselves, let alone vote… does that make them morally worth less or invalidate their rights? Whether we’re “functionally identical” (whatever that means) is completely beside the point. Our rights don’t come from the fact that we’re intelligent or that we’re rational beings, or that we’re “functionally identical”. Our ability to respect the rights of others comes from being a rational being. I would hope that my suffering a serious head injury would not somehow limit my rights.

    I get that your point is that “like and equal are not the same thing” (to quote L’Engle), but you’re completely missing the point on why it is offensive to compare a human to an animal.

    Agreed.

  150. Rebecca
    Rebecca August 31, 2009 at 2:36 pm |

    Why is that relevant? Not all human beings are capable of voting. My niece is five–the concept of voting is pretty much beyond her understanding right now. There are plenty of human beings who will never have the mental capacity to dress themselves, let alone vote… does that make them morally worth less or invalidate their rights? Whether we’re “functionally identical” (whatever that means) is completely beside the point. Our rights don’t come from the fact that we’re intelligent or that we’re rational beings, or that we’re “functionally identical”. Our ability to respect the rights of others comes from being a rational being. I would hope that my suffering a serious head injury would not somehow limit my rights.

    Why don’t you tell me? If someone told you that your mental capacities were those of a five-year-old or of a person in a vegetative state, would you brush it off with “they’re people too”?

  151. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 31, 2009 at 4:27 pm |

    No, Scott, dear. The Nazis reduced the Jews to animals. Renee pointed out that that sort of rhetoric gave license to degrade, enslave and exterminate people. That you would ignore this is beyond disgusting.

    PETA’s Holocaust ad made light of the Shoah. If you’re going to complain about HUMAN privilege, you’d damn well be ready to own your WHITE, MALE, AND CHRISTIAN privilege as well.

    Do go flounce off with Jesus or whatever.

  152. Roy
    Roy August 31, 2009 at 10:38 pm |

    Why don’t you tell me? If someone told you that your mental capacities were those of a five-year-old or of a person in a vegetative state, would you brush it off with “they’re people too”?

    I’m not sure I understand… they are people, too, and deserving of the same rights that any other person is. If someone said that I’m the intellectual equal to a five year-old, I probably wouldn’t take it as a compliment. If someone said that I’ve got the same rights as a five year-old, I’d say “Of course I do.”

    I’m confused, though, because I haven’t suggested anyone should brush anything off. Just so we’re clear: I’m not suggesting, and haven’t anywhere in this thread suggested, that the whole “people are animals too” rhetoric is acceptable. In fact, I’ve said pretty much the opposite.

  153. Allen
    Allen September 1, 2009 at 8:03 am |

    Okay, okay. I give up. You are right. I am wrong. Non-human animals are inferior to us magnificent humans. Now will you stop supporting the needless torment and slaughter of animals?

  154. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub September 1, 2009 at 8:12 am |

    And the award for completely missing the point goes to Allen.

  155. Allen
    Allen September 1, 2009 at 8:30 am |

    From Renee “Much of the time, [PETA] buttress their position by saying that we are no different than animals and therefore are undeserving of special treatment.”

    Incorrect. PETA’s position is that in our shared ability to suffer there is no difference between humans and non-human animals. PETA, and other AR groups, don’t want to grant animals the right to vote, they want to grant them the right not to be needlessly tormented and killed by humans.

    “For centuries, POC have been compared to animals, as a way to dehumanize us.”

    True. Similarly, for centuries men have been compared to women as a way to emasculate them. But does that mean it is okay to torment and kill women? You don’t have to shit on another oppressed group when demanding your own fair treatment.

    To quote Vegans of Color: “For me to use biology to explain why it isn’t ok to kill or cage me, but it is to kill or cage someone else is a replication of power dynamics. It is shitting on those lower than me on a hierarchy of power, so that I can keep my perch away from the bottom.” http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/for-as-long-as-my-skin-is-black-i-will-be-a-devoted-anti-speciesist/

    From Renee, “until we can get to a point where there is equality amongst the human race, demanding such equality between humans and animals is going to be an issue.”

    This sentence, like the title of the post, sets up a false dichotomy. AR groups aren’t demanding equality between humans and animals. They are pleading for animals to have the basic right not to be needlessly tormented and killed by humans.

    “Like any other social organization, these animal rights groups are largely White run and this leads to a form of myopia in organizing.”

    According to a recent poll by VegNews magazine, there are more black vegans and vegetarians than there are white. There are more women vegans and vegetarians than there are men. It seems the vegan/AR community is mostly made up of people who have a history of being oppressed, not white males. And what of groups like the Black Vegetarians who agree that the comparisons between the ways that African American slaves were treated in the past and how animals are treated today are valid? Here is a group with black leaderships saying the same thing as PETA.

    From Renee “For as long as my skin is Black I will be a devoted speciesist. My dignity and humanity demand no less.”

    Read the quotes I posted above from prominent leaders in the social justice movement and you will see that they agree that animals should be granted the right to not be needlessly tormented and killed by humans for many of the same reasons that people (of any variety) should not be needlessly tormented and killed. If Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Charles Patterson, Alice Walker and other leaders of social justice movements can see the validity in comparing the plights of animals to the plights of humans, why can’t the Feministe bloggers?

  156. William
    William September 1, 2009 at 10:13 am |

    You are right. I am wrong. Non-human animals are inferior to us magnificent humans. Now will you stop supporting the needless torment and slaughter of animals?

    An interesting, and illuminating, assumption to make there, Allen. Calling out some AR groups because their rhetoric is offensive does not equal disagreeing with their cause. Not every criticism of a group’s tactics is a criticism of the group’s aim.

    More importantly, there seems to be some real narcissism in your posts. Here you have several POCs saying that they find comparisons of animals to people offensive because such comparisons have historically been used not to elevate animals but to devalue certain human beings. Your response was to argue over whether or not their lived experience and perception of a racist culture was accurate, to call them naive, to explain why to them why they’re really wrong because you’ve know some POCs who agree with you, and then finally to skulk off passive aggressively and devolve the whole discussion to “fine, I agree with you, can we ignore what you began talking about in your space and focus on my issue now?”

    That anger and exasperation you’re feeling? That sense that no one is listening to you? That petulance you’re responding with? That constant ignoring/devaluing/bypassing of other people’s voices you’ve been displaying? Thats privilege. Thats what Renee seemed to be calling out in her original post. Not everything is about you and the issues you’ve internalized, and POC (in their own goddamn space, no less) have no responsibility to drop everything and attend to your interests because you feigned agreement with their point for the sole purpose of getting them to shut up.

  157. Rebecca
    Rebecca September 1, 2009 at 11:19 am |

    I’m not sure I understand… they are people, too, and deserving of the same rights that any other person is. If someone said that I’m the intellectual equal to a five year-old, I probably wouldn’t take it as a compliment. If someone said that I’ve got the same rights as a five year-old, I’d say “Of course I do.”

    Five-year-olds can’t vote. Five-year-olds can’t negotiate work. Five-year-olds can’t dictate the terms of their own lives. And it just so happens that these are some of the rights that white people have tried to and still try to deny to POC.

    No one here appears to be suggesting that animals don’t deserve to be treated well, because that is not the point of this post.

    I’m confused, though, because I haven’t suggested anyone should brush anything off. Just so we’re clear: I’m not suggesting, and haven’t anywhere in this thread suggested, that the whole “people are animals too” rhetoric is acceptable. In fact, I’ve said pretty much the opposite.

    The original comment was in response to the “different, but not inferior” remark of Allen, who is saying that. Your comment came across as defending his position.

  158. Allen
    Allen September 1, 2009 at 11:39 am |

    William, I am not making any assumptions. Renee has said she does not agree with the animal rights cause. One of the reasons she doesn’t agree with the cause is because she is offended by some people in the movement. My plea was for Renee to stop supporting the needless torment and killing of animals. I will gladly give up the comparisons of cruelty to humans and non-human animals if it means Renee will reevaluate her support for the needless cruelty inflicted on animals.

    I don’t expect anyone to drop everything and focus on my issue. We can choose a vegan lifestyle and still speak out against racism, sexism or any other human social justice issue. And I don’t think everything is about me. In fact, I’m trying to get Renee and others to understand that ending oppression isn’t just about their group. It’s about everyone, including animals. I’m frustrated because you and others continue to make assumptions about my meaning and arguing against things I’ve never said. Why not give me the benefit of the doubt and stop reading too much into what I have written.

    When I say rights are not self-determined, I do not mean that slaves deserve to be slaves. I mean that any inalienable rights we have must be recognized by those who hold power or they are functionally useless. If the U.S. government did not recognize the rights of African Americans then they would still be slaves, regardless their personal view of themselves and their inalienable rights. Similarly, if not for the U.S. government, women would still be handing out pamphlets on street corners trying to convince people they should be allowed to vote. Similarly, unless we humans choose to recognize that animals have an inalienable right not to be tormented and abused, animals will continue to be tormented and abused.

    Speaking of unfounded assumptions, I find it odd that some people automatically assume I am a privileged white male. My name may give away my gender, but it doesn’t identify the fact that my father was black. Even still, I do not agree with this blog post. The ways that humans oppress other humans and animals bare striking and obvious resemblance. Making ad hominem attacks against me or arguing philosophical semantics will not change this.

    I think one reason people have such a hard time recognizing the obvious similarities between cruelty inflicted on humans and cruelty inflicted on animals is that many people participate in cruelty to animals every single day. To admit that we are supporting similar cruelties to animals that so anger us about the ways our ancestors were treated is difficult. But it is necessary for us to recognize and confront the similarities in order to achieve a more just and peaceful world.

    Another reason, as outlined in this blog post, is that people who have a deep rooted prejudice against non-human animals feel that comparing the suffering of animals to humans trivializes human suffering. However, the failure to acknowledge non-human animals’ comparable suffering trivializes cruelty to animals at the hands of humans. It reinforces and “justifies” treating animals as mere objects. What is wrong with saying that cruelty (including sexual violations, enslavement and needless killing) is wrong no matter the victim?

    In the greater social justice movement, there is the key concept of “othering.” Othering is a way of defining and securing one’s own positive identity through the stigmatization of an “other.” White supremacists “other” non-white people to justify their oppression. Sexist men “other” women to justify their oppression. Americans “other” Mexicans in order to justify their oppression. Speciesist “other” animals to justify their oppression.

    Whatever the markers of differentiation that shape the meaning of “us” and “them,” whether they are racial, geographic, ethnic, economic, ideological or species membership, there is always the danger that these differences will become the basis for a self-affirmation that depends upon the denigration of the other group. When a group claims to be “superior” by virtue of birthright, the danger of violence and oppression against the “other” group is magnified.

  159. chava
    chava September 1, 2009 at 11:47 am |

    “Renee has said she does not agree with the animal rights cause. ”

    Um, where? She doesn’t agree with YOUR “animal rights cause.” That doesn’t mean she is somehow in favor of cruelty to animals. In fact, earlier in the thread, Renee stated:

    “For the record, this post is no way implying that animal rights activists need to wait their turn or that their cause is not worthy.”

    FWIW, being a meat eater does not mean you are in favor of needless cruelty, and the accusation gets damn tiresome. I realize that *your* version of the movement would deny this. But you do not have a monopoly on the cause.

  160. Allen
    Allen September 1, 2009 at 11:49 am |

    Rebecca, the reason I chose the words “different, but not inferior” is because, contrary to this blog, animal rights groups recognize the fact that animals are different than humans. We understand that animals don’t understand the concept of voting. But animals do understand the anguish involved in having your baby taken from you. They do understand the suffering involved when they are taken from their homes and forced to perform stupid circus tricks for human amusement. They do understand suffering.

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. The animal rights position is not that animals are the same as or equal to humans in every way. The animal rights position is that animals are capable of experiencing pain, fear and suffering in ways that are similar to humans. And animals are made to needlessly experience pain, fear and suffering at the hands of humans for reasons that bare a striking similarity to the reasons dominant human groups have used to denigrate other humans.

  161. Allen
    Allen September 1, 2009 at 12:01 pm |

    Chava, since the very beginning, the animal rights position has made clear that animals have the right not to be needlessly exploited by humans for any reason, including food. Since humans don’t need to eat meat to survive, any exploitation and suffering animals endure when they are killed for food is needless suffering and exploitation. Therefore, you can not support the animal rights position and still eat animals.

    In contrast, the defined “animal welfare” position is that it is okay to use animals if they are “treated well” – whatever that means. By definition, the animal welfarist view stands in stark contrast to the animal rights view. It’s not just my view of animal rights. It is the defined view of animal rights.

    Renee has said she does not agree with the animal rights cause. At Vegan Soapbox she says: “Yes I will continue to eat animals and I don’t see it as problematic behavior. Let’s not pretend that animals don’t get eaten by other animals.”

    Not only does she ironically resort to equating humans who eat animals to other animals who eat animals, she says she will continue to needlessly exploit animals for food and that she doesn’t see the problem with that.

  162. chava
    chava September 1, 2009 at 12:21 pm |

    Allen, I’ll give credit where it’s due–I was not aware of the difference between the two terms. I tend to think of “animal rights” versus “animal liberation,” where “animal liberation” would represent your position.

    In any case, I won’t argue why I am a proponent of animal welfare instead of AR, because it is seriously OT. However I still think it is inappropriate and counter-productive to assume that Renee (or anyone) supports cruelty to animals simply because she/he is an omnivore.

    Further, nowhere have you acknowledged that the Holocaust and KKK comparisons are hurtful, offensive, and should not be used. You deny you are affiliated with PeTA, but go on to say why their arguments are OK, and while you can see how “some” might be offended, they should just get over it.

    William did a better job of explaining it than I did, but in short, it does sound very much like your privilege is showing. Instead of discussing ways of promoting your point of view that might NOT hurt or offend others, you continue to explain why that kind of promotion is OK.

  163. Ruchama
    Ruchama September 1, 2009 at 12:48 pm |

    I just noticed this ad in this month’s issue of VegNews, and wondered how people here felt about it. It does make comparisons between people and animals, but it doesn’t seem to me to be the same sort of comparison that PETA has used.

    It’s a full-page ad, with a photo of a man (I think he might be Asian, if that matters, but it’s kind of hard to tell for sure from the angle) snuggling a cat and kissing the cat’s nose. The big headline says, “The feelings are mutual.” Smaller text: “Animal and human lives are inextricably linked. During good times and bad, quiet moments and crises, we are connected to the animals who share our lives. Just as natural disasters, economic difficulties, and other hardships affect both people and pets, kindness and compassion affect all of us, too. We are in this together, and we can all make a difference. Find out how you can help at humanesociety.org.”

    And, out of curiosity, I also looked through the magazine to see what sort of representations they had of people of color. Among the photographs in the articles and ads, I noticed a lot of white people, several Asian people, and a few probably-Hispanic people. Only three black people that I noticed — one was a photo of a chef in his ad for his catering service, and the other two were Barack and Michelle Obama in an article about the garden at the White House. Some of the Asian people were illustrating articles that specifically had to do with Asia — like a travel article about a vegetarian festival in Thailand, or a photo of a young Asian woman holding an orange next to a blurb about a study of bone density in Buddhist nuns in Vietnam, half of whom were vegan. But there were also Asian people mixed in with the mostly-white groups of people shown eating the food in the recipes or just randomly illustrating a story, like holding a barbell next to an article about the benefits of weight-lifting. There were no black people in any of those incidental photos.

  164. Allen
    Allen September 1, 2009 at 1:06 pm |

    Chava, I encourage you to read up on the animal rights movement and it position. I believe that part of the problem with the debate we’ve been waging here is that too many people simply don’t understand the animal rights position. The animal rights vs animal welfare discussion isn’t really too far off topic. In a way, an analogy could be made for this divide to other social justice movements too. For example, a human rights advocate would argue that using human slaves is never okay and that human liberation is the only ethical position. On the flip side, a human welfare advocate (if there were such a position) might argue that slavery is okay as long as people are “treated well” – whatever that means. Do you see the problem with the welfarist viewpoint? Who decides what “humane” treatment is? The oppressors, or the victims? If the victims (whether human or animal) are allowed to choose, they would choose liberation over “humane” treatment.

    Whether she likes it or not, Renee does support needless cruelty to animals by choosing to eat animals instead of readily available plant-based alternatives. It is cruel to needlessly deprive another sentient being of that which we want for ourselves – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Renee is a cruel person any more than I think other people who choose to eat meat are cruel. Similarly, I don’t think people who purchased cotton fabrics in the days of slavery in the United States were cruel for supporting slavery. And I don’t think people who buy GAP clothing are cruel for supporting sweatshops. I think that most people just don’t connect the dots between their actions and the inevitable consequences of their actions.

    The reason I won’t acknowledge that human/animal comparisons are invalid or hurtful is because I don’t agree they are. I have been trying to explain my position and why I don’t think it is wrong for animal rights groups to make Holocaust or KKK comparisons. I understand some people take offense to these comparisons, but they take offense precisely because they view animals as inferior or unworthy and are thus they reinforcing the needless exploitation and suffering of animals. When people stop viewing animals as inferior things to be used as humans see fit, but rather as sentient beings who deserve to be left alone, then they will no longer be offended by these comparisons.

    I don’t work for PETA and had to look up this KKK reference, but it doesn’t seem offensive to me at all. PETA seems to be saying that if you are against the racist reasoning of the KKK, you should also be against the pure pedigree reasoning of the AKC. As with the Holocaust, I believe they are saying that if you are horrified by the cruel ways that Jews were tortured and killed by the Nazis, then you should be horrified by the cruel ways that animals are tortured and killed by humans. The analogy isn’t that Jews or black people are like animals. The analogy is that the cruel things done to people are still cruel when they are done to animals.

  165. Ida
    Ida September 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm |

    To other nonhuman animal advocates, especially those of us who are White: Can we please try to understand that knowledge from books is never as valid as knowledge based on personal life experiences? That is, can we please acknowledge that Marjorie Spiegel is a White woman, and her analysis in The Dreaded Comparison, regardless of the endorsement by Alice Walker, is based on abstractions from the past and not as valid as the present, every day, lived experiences of people of color who are right here trying to tell us their experience with dehumanization? In other words, can we stop throwing this book in the face of people of color? Can we stop saying in effect, “Hey, this White woman knows more about how you experience dehumanization than you do”? Because it’s not true, and it only perpetuates racism.

    If we really believe that speciesism is wrong for the same reason that racism is wrong — because both are systems that exploit one group in order to privilege another. (Is this not what Walker means when she says, “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men”?) Then what does it mean when we exploit the oppression of people of color to promote our own agenda of nonhuman animal advocacy? Because when we do this we are perpetuating the very racist patterns that deems people of color exploitable. Are we not invalidating the very argument that both speciesism and racism are wrong? After all, how can we say racism is wrong on the one hand, and then continue the exploitation of people of color on the other hand? And if we continue to perpetuate this kind of racism and we believe that racism and speciesism are wrong for the same reasons, then we have exactly zero standing from which to lecture people of color about speciesism. Since we obviously must not truly think speciesism is all bad, since our exploitation of people of color shows that we in fact don’t think racism is all bad.

  166. Rebecca
    Rebecca September 1, 2009 at 5:23 pm |

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. The animal rights position is not that animals are the same as or equal to humans in every way.

    Then you should have no problem when people object to being called animals or to having others of their group called animals. Yet you see this as perfectly reasonable, … ?

  167. Ben
    Ben September 1, 2009 at 7:20 pm |

    Interesting thread. I’d like to share my thoughts, and I’m sorry if any are redundant as I skipped a few of the 167 comments. :I

    First off, I’m White and also a supporter of veganism and animal rights. I agree comparing humans to animals is a very complex and sensitive issue. Often times, animal rights supporters make these comparisons in ways that seem sensationalistic. Personally, I prefer a more measured approach. I can understand why many POC and others find sensationalistic PETA rhetoric offensive (and since PETA are publicity addicts, it’s probably supposed to be offensive).

    That said, I think there are legitimate parallels to be noted between the oppression of nonhuman animals and the oppression of humans. For example, imprisonment. Both humans and nonhumans share an instinct to freedom of movement, that, when stifled, results in suffering. Granted, humans and nonhumans don’t experience the desire to freely move in the same way, but they both suffer when it is denied to them.

    Next, I could look at how groups with privilege have imprisioned various subordinate groups. There’s human slavery. There’s prisons. There’s the forced institutionalization of the mentally ill and disabled. There’s modern animal agriculture. There’s zoos. The motives behind these instituions are different, as are the cultural contexts and the specific effects. But all involve the confinement of a subordinate group to the deteriment of that group and for the (often economic) benefit of the dominant group.

    I realize that this is a comparison I’m making from a position of privilege–both human privilege and White privilege. Many may find it offensive, and I do not relish causing these people discomfort. Still, I ulimately believe the comparison is accurate and hopefully will illustrate why all types of imprisonment cause suffering and why they should therefore be avoided as much as possible. I don’t want to give any power to racists or sexists–rather I want to see all forms of oppression ended: abilism, ageism, classism, heterosexism, imperialism, racism, religious discrimination, sexism, sizism, speciesism, transphobia (and since the struggles against all forms of oppression are equally important I listed them in alphabetical order).

    Thank you Renee for your food for thought.

  168. Roy
    Roy September 1, 2009 at 7:38 pm |

    Five-year-olds can’t vote. Five-year-olds can’t negotiate work. Five-year-olds can’t dictate the terms of their own lives. And it just so happens that these are some of the rights that white people have tried to and still try to deny to POC.

    The right to vote is a legal, not necessarily a moral, right, but it’s true that children do not have it. I was under the impression that we were discussing moral rights for the most part–the right not to be unjustly killed or abused, most primarily.

    No one here appears to be suggesting that animals don’t deserve to be treated well, because that is not the point of this post.

    There is significant discussion about what that means, though. And there seemed to be a larger discussion happening about who even have rights, which prompted my initial response–the suggestion seemed to be that animals don’t have rights because they aren’t rational beings, or because they are incapable of things like voting, which is just wrong.

    The original comment was in response to the “different, but not inferior” remark of Allen, who is saying that. Your comment came across as defending his position.

    While I don’t agree with most of what Allen is saying, I’m not sure how I feel about the “different but not inferior” statement. I don’t, for example, think that the fact that we happen to be “smarter” (in some ways) makes us somehow morally superior to animals. The fact that we have more evolved brains gives us many advantages, but I don’t think that our capacity for reason makes us more morally valuable than anything else. Does the fact that a cheetah is faster than any land animal make it more morally important?

    We are different from other animals, in many ways, but I’m not sure that the differences are morally relevant when it comes to rights.

    None of which prevents me from recognizing the value of Renee’s post, and understanding that comparisons between humans and animals must be made very very cautiously, because of the history of dehumanizing and denigrating certain groups of people.

    At any rate, it’s more of an offshoot of the general course of the comments, and tangentially related to Renee’s point, at best, so I probably should have let it pass. Sorry for any confusion I caused.

  169. Rebecca
    Rebecca September 1, 2009 at 8:19 pm |

    The right to vote is a legal, not necessarily a moral, right, but it’s true that children do not have it. I was under the impression that we were discussing moral rights for the most part–the right not to be unjustly killed or abused, most primarily.

    The discussion has been derailed in that direction, yes. The original post was about humans being called animals.

  170. Allen
    Allen September 2, 2009 at 8:57 am |

    “what does it mean when we exploit the oppression of people of color to promote our own agenda of nonhuman animal advocacy?”

    Rebecca, making a comparison of similar types of oppression is not exploitation of people of color. I hear a lot of racism charges here that are simply unfounded. The entire blog from Renee reeks of racism against white people as she unfairly pits POC’s against the supposedly “white run” animal rights movement – all despite the many quotes from non-white social justice leaders and organizations that also draw parallels between human and animal oppression.

    I have a somewhat unique perspective as someone from mixed racial background. I’ve experienced racism from both ends, from being called a nigger on the playground to having to remind my black friends that my mother is white when they are talking shit about white people.

    In fact, I take offense to the term “people of color (POC)” because it implies a false “us” versus ”them” dichotomy, as if all non-white people are on the same side of some ethnic divide against those evil, oppressive white people. Let us not forget that the Underground Railroad was a white run organization. Let us not forget that the Irish and Jews are considered white, yet they have faced discrimination and persecution. Let us not forget that the Egyptians and the Moors kept white slaves for centuries. Let us not forget that the majority of African Americans in California voted against the rights of gay Americans to marry whomever they choose.

    The question at hand is not so much about the oppression of one race, or gender, or sexuality. The question at hand is about the nature of prejudice, discrimination and persecution. Only prejudice allows a human being to say that their suffering is more important, or more relevant, than the suffering of another being. And it’s not even that! The prejudice here is one that allows human beings to say that their suffering is so much more relevant than the suffering of any other sentient being that it is offensive to even suggest parallels. It is this prejudice that I find offensive. It is repugnant and it stands in the face of everything the social justice movement is about.

    When I was in high school I remember wondering what I would have done if I were an ordinary German citizen during the Holocaust. I wondered how people could look the other way while these atrocities were happening. How did they justify it in their own minds? I knoew which side I was one from the beginning. I am on the side that resists prejudice and persecution of the “other” by supposed “superior” beings.

    So, when the parallels between the Holocaust and our current treatment of animals were pointed out to me by PETA, I automatically knew which side of the debate I was on. I am against needless cruelty and violence – especially when the justifications for said cruelty and violence are that the victims “aren’t like us” or are “inferior.” I say if they can feel pain or suffer than they are enough like me that it would be hypocritical of me to cause them needless pain or suffering.

    Ask yourself, setting other social justice issues aside for a moment, in the relationship between humans and other animals, do we not compare to Nazis? As a species, do we not condone and justify even the most horrific acts of cruelty and needless violence against other animals – simply because they are not “like us”? In my mind, if you are someone who takes offense when the obvious parallels between the animal rights movement and other social justice movements are discussed, well then I am lumping you in with the Nazis and not the people of the Underground Railroad Network.

    I came across this very relevant article today called “What Vegans Can Learn from the Gay Rights Movement Successes” http://writ.news.findlaw.com/colb/20090902.html.

    The best quote from the article is: “The first thing to note is that there is a risk in analogizing the struggle for gay rights with the struggle for animal rights. The danger that concerns me is not, as some might think, that of offending people. People were (and some continue to be) offended by comparisons between struggles against racial oppression and struggles against homophobia, but it is precisely the resistance to an unfamiliar claim (especially a claim that implicates one’s own behavior) that makes it seem “offensive.” If inflicting terrible suffering and death on nonhuman animals who can feel pleasure, pain, and a wide range of emotions represents a real harm – and most people acknowledge, at some level, that it does – then no one should be offended by the suggestion that this harm must stop, just as other harms, once taken for granted as permissible, are now almost universally condemned.”

  171. Gay Female Animal
    Gay Female Animal September 2, 2009 at 9:29 am |

    Many vegans and animal rights activists I know recognize the problem that the animal rights movement consists of mostly white people. They are trying to bridge that by reaching out to more organizations of color, inner-city schools and black colleges. Also, many vegans and animal rights activists I know are not associated with PETA. How sad that of the countless people speaking up for animal rights, they are lumped into one category: PETA. This is an illusion that animal agriculture industries try to create to further THEIR agenda and to rely on the false stereotypes people have about advocates of animal rights. Too bad that so many of the comments on this thread – comments made by progressive, enlightened people – does that too. To be honest, it’s very disheartening.

    There is a huge piece that I feel is missing here: Though animal activists have used the intersections of other oppressed groups to show the parallels to the oppression of animals, it does not mean the two groups are being equated. There are facts within the history of the anti-racism movement, the women’s liberation movement, and the gay rights movement that can be compared to the animal rights movement. That’s the nature of social justice movements. “Rape racks,” for example, is a term coined by the agriculture industry. (Rape racks are where cows are constantly and repeatedly inseminated in order to produce milk.) By bringing up rape racks and finding the intersection to where women are also exploited and abused for their reproductive organs, are we misappropriating? As a vegan and a survivor of rape, my opinion is no, absolutely not. Does that mean that my experience with being raped is the same as a cow’s? I doubt it’s the same, though I don’t know – because I’m not a cow. What I do know is that the cows feel pain, and given the cruelty-free alternatives widely available today, why on earth would I want to support an industry that is cruel to animals? I don’t hesitate, not for a moment, before drawing the parallel to rape racks.

    By mentioning the fact that AIDS jumped to humans via the consumption of bushmeat (the flesh of wild primates) – thus oppressing those primates – and then became known as the “gay disease” – oppressing gay people – and now in order to find a cure/vaccine for AIDS, scientists are performing live vivisection on apes (once again oppressing primates)… are we exploiting gay people? As a gay person, no, I think not. This is merely a fact, and in order to confront, once and for all, the injustices present, in many different and similar ways, within oppressed groups, we need to point these out, and we need to build bridges with each other to fight them.

    That said, yes, there are absolutely people who have exploited the intersections within these movements, and done so in an egregiously insensitive manner. There are tactics that PETA uses that are abhorrent and an embarrassment to those of us entrenched in the animal rights movement, trying to educate people about the horrors of animal agriculture.

    But that’s not everyone, and not all animal rights activists – even those that use the intersectionality within social justice movements – are created equal. Or should I say, their tactics and approaches are not created equal.

    If you disagree with that, that’s your opinion. But it would be counter-productive to turn off the entire animal rights movement because of one particular tactic that you find offensive. Instead, as you see these tactics and take personal issue to them, contact the organizers and tell them so. Tell them why. Engage them in dialogue. After all, isn’t that the crux of any social justice movement? Perhaps you will enlighten them. Perhaps you’ll each learn new points of view.

    By eating animals, you are still oppressing humans, and most of those humans are not white. If you think that white animal activists do not recognize their privilege, then it might be necessary for you to also look into what you are supporting by eating that chicken or egg sandwich. In addition to the exploitation and commodification of the animals themselves, there are USUALLY tired, underpaid, abused, non-white people working in those slaughterhouses. (Read “Slaughterhouse” by Gail Eisnitz). Oftentimes, they are immigrants working there – immigrants who do not get paid above minimum wage, but who work long and dangerous hours so that greedy Americans and other privileged people can over-consume. Is it wrong to point that out? That both the chickens and the workers are being exploited? Isn’t it factual?

    As a gay vegan, I want you to know that I don’t think I’m better than you, and I don’t think it’s up to me to speak up for your particular group. I do, however, think it’s up to me – and all of us – to speak up for those who are not so lucky. That is my way of utilizing my unjust privilege. I do not consume animals and I do not contribute to other types of oppression. I stand against all oppression. Sometimes, along the way, I make the comparisons noted in this (way too long) comment.

  172. Rebecca
    Rebecca September 3, 2009 at 10:31 am |

    The entire blog from Renee reeks of racism against white people

    Anyone got their bingo card? How many squares have we got now?

    In fact, I take offense to the term “people of color (POC)” because it implies a false “us” versus ”them” dichotomy, as if all non-white people are on the same side of some ethnic divide against those evil, oppressive white people.


    …seriously?

  173. Weekly Roundup – September 6, 2009 « The Inhumanities

    [...] on “Are Humans and Animals the Same?” at Womanist Musings (cross-posted to Feministe); responses by Royce at Vegans of Color, Scu at Critical Animal, Peter Gratton at Philosophy in a [...]

  174. Lisa
    Lisa September 17, 2009 at 4:26 pm |

    I am a woman of colour who is also an AR advocate, and I think it’s important to note that, while most publicized AR groups and activities don’t usually convey this properly, no one means to say that animals are the same as any group of humans in all or most ways, only in *certain* ways (namely our shared interest in not being treated as tools/property, not being tortured and not being killed). What’s being compared is not the marginalized groups and all of their traits, but rather *that* they have been unfairly oppressed, and that similar reasoning has been used to justify that oppression historically (things like: They’re tools, we’ve always exploited them, they are uncivilized etc.)

    It’s interesting that so many people are sensitive to animal rights because they think caring about animals means we don’t care about marginalized humans. They’re not mutually exclusive! Plus, AR advocates aren’t saying animals are *the same* as humans. They are not the same! No one’s talking about giving them the right to vote or have an abortion. We’re just talking about the granting rights to the interests (and qualities) that all humans and animals share–namely the right not to be treated as a tool, or tortured, killed etc.

    Sadly, many AR groups (like PETA and HSUS) don’t understand what it means to say all oppressions share the same root– part of the post is true and important for animal rights advocates to hear. The movement is definitely sexist and racist (and speciesist, for that matter) and action needs to be taken to change that, but why on earth should animals have to pay the price for racist humans’ mistakes? Crabs in the bucket.

    Gay men have been compared to women in a derogatory way … so therefore …. errr ….. gay men should be sexist? I am compared to another oppressed group in a way that is discriminatory, therefore I should continue oppressing that oppressed group? Awesome argument.

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