OpEds | Jon Hochschartner
In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis in the animalist movement on ‘intersectionality,’ by which is meant consideration of human issues such as class, gender and race. This is obviously a worthwhile endeavor on its own terms. And simply from a strategic level it’s good in that a more inclusive struggle will be bigger and thus more effective.
But I’d argue recently some animalists have ceded too much ground, so much so that animal issues have taken a backseat to human ones within the animalist movement itself. And for our efforts we have received very little in return. If the broader left is more open to consideration of anti-speciesism than it was a few years ago, the change is hardly noticeable.
Let me first say that I have arguably been a part of the problem. In as much as anyone in the anti-speciesist movement is familiar with me, it’s through my writing that sought to foster dialogue between socialists and animalists. Coming primarily from the latter perspective, some of my criticism was internal. For instance, I criticized what I saw as ineffective, ‘individualist’ strategies employed by the animalist movement, such as emphasizing the personal boycott of animal-derived products and relying on acts of sabotage or violence carried out by small groups. But I believe the majority of my criticism was aimed externally, at the anthropocentrism of the socialist left. Don’t get me wrong. Internal criticism is necessary for the health of any movement. But recently, I believe the ratio of external to internal criticism has gotten out of whack.
In today’s animalist environment, writers seem to receive recognition primarily based on the degree to which they minimize animal concerns in the face of human issues such as class, race, and gender, and criticizing other animalists for doing so inadequately. It has reached the point where even the staunchest animalists have become reluctant to make basic comparisons between humans and animals and how both are exploited for fear of offending speciesists by “appropriating” the struggles of human groups. Never mind that these human groups have often, in seeking to define their ill-treatment, reached for the metaphor of animal exploitation themselves. And never mind that all human-liberation struggles have compared their efforts to prior, more successful human-liberation struggles — “appropriating” them — in the hopes of gaining needed legitimacy.
“I believe the ratio of external to internal criticism has gotten out of whack.”
If we are unwilling to make these cross-species comparisons, to compare animals to humans and the exploitation of one to another, why bother fighting for non-humans at all? The animalist movement might as well fold up shop. Yes, let’s be intersectional, both because it’s good in itself and good strategy. But let’s reject the often unstated, speciesist premise of such ‘intersectionalists,’ that animals are fundamentally different than humans and their suffering less meaningful. Let’s begin a conversation about the productivity of internal and external criticism from animalist writers, as I believe we currently value the former disproportionally. And let’s not fault animalists for prioritizing species issues. After all, socialists prioritize class; feminists prioritize gender; and anti-racists prioritize race. If we won’t prioritize non-humans, who will?
Jon Hochschartner is a freelance writer.
FACT TO REMEMBER:
IF THE WESTERN MEDIA HAD ITS PRIORITIES IN ORDER AND ACTUALLY INFORMED, EDUCATED AND UPLIFTED THE MASSES INSTEAD OF SHILLING FOR A GLOBAL EMPIRE OF ENDLESS WARS, OUTRAGEOUS ECONOMIC INEQUALITY, AND DEEPENING DEVASTATION OF NATURE AND THE ANIMAL WORLD, HORRORS LIKE THESE WOULD HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED MANY YEARS, PERHAPS DECADES AGO. EVERY SINGLE DAY SOCIAL BACKWARDNESS COLLECTS ITS OWN INNUMERABLE VICTIMS.
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