Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Social(ist) Animals: Toward Mutual Aid against the Great Butcher

Sue Coe. 2004. "Ox Pull." From "Bully!: master of the Global Merry-go-round" Source: http://www.graphicwitness.org/coe/bullya.htm
"However, even vegetarianism in your hands, would make a capital article...  its connection with modern socialism, atheism, nihilism, anarchy and other political creeds... Brussels sprouts seem to make people bloodthirsty, and those who live on lentils and artichokes are always calling for the gore of the aristocracy and for the severed heads of kings... in the political sphere a diet of green beans seems dangerous." -Oscar Wilde, The Complete Letters, p. 334, from a letter dated Nov. 12, 1887.

Ten months ago, Paul D'Amato's article  "Socialism and 'animal rights'" sparked a small controversy that fizzled out within a month of its release. Unfortunately, out of the dozen responses only two or three were more argument than opinion. My aim here is to provide a more rigorous and comprehensive critique of D'Amato's article absent in the responses in order to better reconcile the perceived tension between socialistm and animal rights.

In "Socialism and 'Animal Rights'," D'Amato's reasoning starts off strong, making critical and important insights on the idea of animal liberation; however, it soon strays into weak, dangerous, and unnecessary territory. D'Amato comes to several conclusions (not presented in this order):

  1. "There is a clear connection between how a rapacious capitalism mistreats animals... environment... [and] human[s]"
  2. "Non-human animals are helpless… incapable of organizing and fighting for their rights"
  3. "To compare the condition of animals to that of... [humans] for freedom and equality is to view the latter through a paternalistic lens, rather than a lens of human liberation"
  4. "we need to insist on the essential differences between human beings and other animals, and reject the idea of 'animal liberation.'"
  5. "seeking more humane treatment of animals is not the same as calling for 'animal rights'"
In the first conclusion, he displays sympathy for nonhuman animals and their human allies. In the second, D'Amato properly points out the obvious but sometimes overlooked fact that no other (with a possible exception of a few) species can and/or is capable of politically organizing to declare their rights. This point leads into the subtitle and thesis of D'Amato's piece: to compare the animal liberation movement to human liberation movements is paternalistic (and reeking of white, middle-class, male privilege).

I'm totally on board with D'Amato's thesis if we are only discussing movements and not also mental, material, and legal outcomes. But he does not enclose his argument to his thesis; he continues on to argue that humans are essentially different from all other animals (despite being careful to say that humans are only "qualitatively" different"), and that the "liberation" and rights of nonhuman animals be rejected in favor of merely "more humane treatment." It is these last two conclusions, I find objectionable and weakly argued.

In this response, I will critique four positions D'Amato either asserts or  ignores. First, he implicitly argues that one cannot have rights unless one asserts one has them, a contractualist argument that would exclude many humans from possessing rights. Second, he explicitly draws on evolutionary biology to make arguments for an essential difference between humans and other animals that contradict themselves and are analogous to arguments that have been used to rationalize racism. Third, D'Amato misses how worker and animal exploitation are not only  increased by capitalism, but that they are intersecting oppressions that mutually reinforce one another just as socialism and animal rights are ethico-political positions that intersect and mutually reinforce one another. Finally, he is naive to the historical, cultural, and ecological ties between the exploitation and well-being of human and animal.

1. Against Contractualism: Leave No Animal Behind
Implicit in the article is a contractualist definition of rights, meaning that rights can only be held by rational beings capable of entering into political relations and securing their interests in an agreement to which everyone must abide. Those incapable of realizing, becoming conscious, of themself, themself as belonging to a greater community, themself entitled to "rights," and mutually agreeing with others to uphold and enforce one another's rights are then unmerited in possessing rights unless generously given to them by others. One must make a claim to one's recognition and rights to others. It goes without saying that contractualism has rarely worked in favor of nonhuman animals.

The catch-22 of contractualism, however, is that it provides no basis for the direct consideration of the interests of many humans, humans who are presently incapable of recognizing rights (i.e. people who are severely mentally disabled  and those of future generations). At best, contractualism can only offer indirect consideration to these people via political agents, not immune from the paternalism D'Amato mentions. bring up precisely This critical point about the exclusion of some disabled humans from being protected under "human rights" was duly noted in the responses of Tristam Sloughter and Doug Burkhart .

One contemporary example of the intersection between human an nonhuman animal exploitation is the discovery of 21 "several mentally disabled men who," according to the Associated Press, "were housed in a ramshackle building while working at an Iowa turkey processing plant" for 20 years "being subjected to expectations of working seven days a week and getting up at 3 a.m., living without heat" and with physical and psychological abuse. These workers were payed $0.41/hour (1/25 of the amount the business they worked for was paid to contract them). In the Desmoines Register, an article that is no longer online, one of the founders of the company that hired the workers defends his expired business partner:

"Didn't nobody love the retarded more than Thurman," says Robert Womack of Goldthwaite. "He could be a horse's ass, but he loved them boys."
Anyone familiar with animal cruelty investigations would find this defense eerily similar to the defense many farmers use against accusations of abuse.

For argument sake let's assume that these men did not know they had rights and when told that they did, did not understand why they had rights, what those rights entailed, and what obligation they had to other people's rights. Would their exploitation be any more morally objectionable than the turkeys'? I bring up this case not to compare severely disabled humans with the turkeys being killed in their workplace as if they were the same, but rather to seek out the disturbing consequences of D'Amato's rejection of animal rights. My point is that we ought to give equal moral consideration not only to those with the power to assert rights, but the most vulnerable as well. After all, what good are rights if they only serve to protect those with power (and property) and not the most vulnerable?

If the mentally disabled cannot make rights claims, then according to D'Amato's argument, it would be absurd to assign them rights. There can then be no such thing as "human liberation" (if by "human" we mean all those belonging to the species Homo sapiens) because the capability of liberation is not possessed universally among humans, unless, that is, we are to exclude the severely mentally disabled from that category. Therefore, there could be no such a thing as "human rights" either, so long as only those who can liberate themselves have rights. If we are to extend "human" rights universally to all humans, to be consistent we must also extend them across species lines (at least to those whose lives are managed by human society).

Source: http://libcom.org/library/kropotkin-was-no-crackpot

2. Mutual Aid: The Corporal Compassion of Social Ecology
One may insist on a defense of limiting rights to non-autonomous humans on the basis of species biology, one's genetic composition and/or heritage, but that is structurally the same argument made by racist bigots who defend race entitlement, the primary point Richard Ryder and Peter Singer were making in the 1970's when they popularized the term speciesism. D'amato may have attempted to debate this on the basis of a species' attributes, not an individuals', but this would contradict the whole point that rights must be earned through action, not association. If one needed to merely be genetically associated, there would be no reason not to extend them to members of other species who, according to evolutionary theory, are genetically continuous with humans.

D'Amato misses the irony of his opposition to and use of the logical structure common to racism and speciesism. Misunderstanding that speciesism is not only a prejudice but also an institution, he asserts that the "equation of racism and sexism with the treatment of animals is to trivialize the former," while he perpetuates the very argumentative logic--"[a]ll living things are "speciesist"--that defenders of racism use to rationalize their prejudice through the "instinctive" xenophobia of other species. Ironically, he appeals to the similar natures between humans and other species several times to prove that humans are different and justified in their prejudice.

As feminist scholars of science have long noted, there is circular reasoning in which one projects one's cultural biases onto the "natural" world only to interpret such a projection as natural and thus applicable to understanding humans. Not only is this bad reasoning, but it commits the naturalistic fallacy--drawing an ought from an is. Finally, it is factually incorrect that humans are speciesist by nature. Just as racism is not instinctive but culturally programmed subliminally (or even explicitly) into children at an early age, so too is anthropocentrism acquired by children according to recent research by Northwestern psychologists.

D'Amato, taking his intuitions as universal to humanity, is astonished by the logic that would ever lead a human to even considering a member of a different species over their own, an act of species disloyalty, assuming even if that animal were one's best friend and that human were a complete stranger. Never mind that he places the values of human and nonhuman animal life into a fatal, hypothetical competition to appeal not to reason but "commonsense" intuitions through an absurd logic that is revealed by asking similarly if one would save an American or a Venezuelan, one's child or mother. Such questions seem to anticipate that one must always be loyal to those who are most similar than to those who are different--a tactic commonly deployed by those on the political right.

D'Amato deflects attention away from the peculiarity of his own reasoning by using ad hominem and slippery slope fallacies to attack the idea that "all animals are equal" by citing three infamous political figures whom are really animal welfarists (Newkirk), deep ecologists (Foreman), and ecofascists (the Nazis), not animal rightists! Determined to make his point, he constructs a strawman by drawing on the anecdotes and not the arguments of these popular thinker to supposedly demonstrate the potential danger of animal rights to human rights, playing on the overused motif that "if you love animals you must hate people." Later, he acknowledges that this isn't true for the "many young activists who gravitate to animal rights activism... because they are concerned about how capitalism degrades all living things. Such a concern is not to be pooh-poohed." D'Amato thus trivializes through baby-talk animal rights concerns irrelevant to capitalism (i.e. rodeos, whaling, slaughter), implying these are to be pooh-poohed, and condescends to ARAs by patronizingly calling them "young activists" who must implicitly be naive, undereducated, and/or inexperienced.

Perhaps his most profound contradiction is his implicit agreement with Ben Dalbey's assertion that nonhumans, like Maxine, don't have a "will to live" while later arguing that species are always "struggling to survive." Another contradiction, is acknowledging the "will" of Maxine resisting being placed in a truck, and then later writing that "animals are helpless." Perhaps animals are only helpless because they are without help from humans, that they are not listened to. Is this not also true with human beings whose rights are contingent upon the recognition by and the assistance of a community?

What's problematic here is not simply the logical incompatibility between the two statements, but his general assertions about incompatability in general! As with his rejection of animal rights (vs "more humane treatment") and his astonishment at even the consideration of species disloyalty, so he construes the natural world--like the political one?--as one of competition and struggle even as he advocates socialism and the solidarity of human liberation. But, as Linda Kalof notes, the natural world was not always seen as one of "red in tooth and claw" or "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." The ferociousness and wildness of the more-than-human world originated in the context of the growth of cities, wealth, and war in the ancient and early modern worlds.

Unlike Marx who was suspicious of the bourgeois ideology entangled in the Malthusian interpretation of Darwin's narrative of competition and survival, D'Amato appeals to the same logic that is used to justify the natural virtue of the free market in creating a fitter future. In contrast, biologist and communist Peter Kropotkin believed that "[t]he fittest... [are] the most sociable animals," because sociality secures well-being and nurtures intelligence. "Compassion," he writes, "is a necessary outcome of social life... [i]t is the first step towards the development of higher moral sentiments." Competition, more than mutual aid, is the exception.

D'Amato, then, is wrong that humans can have a discussion about animal ethics only because they have language; rather, humans can contemplate animal ethics because of what Ralph Acampora calls social somaticity, our corporal compassion rooted in our common coevolution with other species in what Mary Midgley calls a mixed-community and with what E.O. Wilson calls biophilia. The reverse of the positive role language plays in morality is equally true: it is the often exploited violent potential in language, to designate beings to the category of  "Other," "subhuman," "thing," and "animal" that has historically closed off the capability of human sentiment needed to morally consider marginalized others. Further, it is also language and reason that allows for a greater illusion of moral certainty, operating post-hoc so as to rationalize the way we feel as we do.

Sue Coe. 1989. "Wheel" from Porkopolis. http://www.graphicwitness.org

3. "All Animals Are Equal:" Animals of the World Unite!
D'amaro is flat-out wrong when he writes "only humans evolve culturally and socially." Only several centuries ago Western humans believed that they were at the center of the cosmos; less than two centuries ago they were a unique and distinct creation of divine origins; over the last four decades the last fortresses of uniqueness have been assailed. In regards to culture, each pod of cetaceans have their own subculture of melodies and Apes have been seen passing on knowledge about tool-use to their kin. Many birds, especially corvus, learn to manipulate objects in their environment to procure food, to drop nuts from a hundred feet in the air to get at the seed, or build elaborate bowers to woo mates. Even certain so-called "lower" animals like ants have been discovered participating in agriculture of the algal kind. If we have learned anything it is that one is never as unique as one suspects, and that differences among beings ought to be valued, not used to continue to exploit others.

While many humanists have stuck their noses up at the suggestion that species other than humans may earn rights (and not simply better treatment), just two years ago, for the first time in Western history, great apes have been given the right to life and freedom by the Spanish government in recognition of their personhood. While there is some controversy over whether the Great Ape Project is itself speciesist by privileging those animals the most similar to humans, at the very least, it is a recognition that members of other species (i.e. dolphins) can be persons, too (although not even personhood is immune from criticism). What D'Amato and his socialist skeptics may find interesting is that the parliamentary decision to extend the right of life and non-exploitation to apes was opposed by Conservatives who deemed it a waste of resources and Catholics who saw it as blasphemous of the natural order, but supported by the Zapatero socialists!

Spain isn't the only place where socialists have advocated animals rights. Over the last two decades, there have been a collection of scholars deliberately and explicitly building connection between animal rights and socialism, including but not limited to Ted Benton's (1993) Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights, and Social Justice, David Nibert's (2002) Animal Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation, Jason Hribal's (2003) "Animals are Part of the Working Class: A Challenge to Labor History," and Bob Torres' (2007) Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights.

The solidarity between socialists and animal rightists can be traced back to England at the cusp of the 20th century among the socialists, suffragists, vegetarians, anti-vivisectionists, and theosophists. Often it is forgotten that the first major advocate of animals rights, and not merely better treatment, was Henry Salt, the 19th and 20th century socialist, vegetarian, pacifist, reformer. Salt, who authored the first book on animal rights, Animals' Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress (1894), believed that "[t]he emancipation of men from cruelty and injustice will bring with it in due course the emancipation of animals also. The two reforms are inseparably connected, and neither can be fully realized alone."  Salt's attitude is still alive today in the animal rights movement in the popular slogan, "One struggle, one fight: human freedom, animal rights."

Peter Singer may have revived the animal rights movement, but certainly he was never its "father" (in fact he's a utilitarian and doesn't believe in animal rights). Every American with a High School diploma ought to know that the phrase "all animals are equal" was first popularized, not by Singer in 1975, but by socialist George Orwell in his 1954 classic Animal Farm. Orwell's aim was to expose the corruption of Marx (Old Major) and Trotsky's (Snowball) ideals by Stalin (Napoleon), whom in the end of the allegory orders that the commandments of animalism be changed to "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" and "Four legs good, two legs better!" Orwell's inspiration to write about farmed animals, however, was not simply because of their near-universal appeal, but because he too saw the intersections between the exploitation of humans and animal others. In the Ukrainian preface, he explains:

the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day... I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge cart-horse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat... I proceeded to analyse Marx's theory from the animals' point of view... since whenever it was necessary to exploit animals, all humans united against them...
In another socialist literature classic, Upton Sinclair's 1906 The Jungle the violence and exploitation toward workers and animals under capitalism and within slaughterhouses is duly noted.

he had stood  and watched the hog-killing, and thought how cruel and savage it was, and come away congratulating himself that he was not a hog; now his new acquaintance showed him that a hog was just what he had been--one of the packer's hogs!...What they wanted form a hog was all the profits that could be got out of him; and that's what they wanted form the working man... What the hogs thought of it, and what he suffered, was not considered; and no more was it with the working man... That was true everywhere under capitalism.
While Sinclair's use of the hogs as a living metaphor for worker exploitation does not carry the same regard for animal protection as does Orwell's, it provides an explicit exposition of intersecting practices and technologies of violence. Unfortunately, Sinclair's novel never brought about the outrage and social revolution he intended. Sinclair later lamented that, although he had "aimed for the public's heart," he accidentally 'hit it in the stomach." Ultimately, the public did not have the stomach or compassion for either socialism or vegetarianism.

While slaughterhouse conditions have substantially improved, slaughterhouse work still remains among the most dangerous jobs in the country. Since the 1980s some standards and pay have gone down despite increasing profits and they continue to ignore human rights. Slaughterhouses will often recruit migrant workers, coerce, trick, and exploit them. Because of the huge turnover from the stress of the work and the disposability of the workforce, communities crumble and crimes rise. Like the workers in the slaughterhouse and other workplaces under capitalism, so too, writes Barbara Noske, nonhuman animals become "de-animalized": they are alienated from their own products, from production activity, from fellow animals, from a suitable living environment, and from their very species life. As disclosed by Gail Eisnitz in her investigative work, despite efforts to sanitize slaughter, animal suffering is the norm, not the exception. Within the global capitalist stock market, workers and animal alike are treated like pieces of meat.

Of course, as Carol Adams note, when one says one is "treated like meat," the subject to whom one is referencing--an animal--is made absent through metaphor. One does not want to be treated like a piece of meat, because that means one is reduced to an object in the eye's of another, a subjectivity unrecognized. How often humans speak of being treated like meat or an animal, or being dehumanized, that one forgets to wonder how nonhuman animals like being "treated like animals" by humans. What is usually meant by treating one like an animal, is to treat one without respect, to see the other as a subordinate or tool. To condemn humans from being treated like animals or dogs is simultaneously to accept the status quo of how "animals" are treated. What is offensive isn't the violation of interests, so much as violating the natural order. One does not condemn hierarchy, exploitation, and cruelty themselves, but only distinguish a class of beings who ought to be immune from such treatment.

It's no wonder why comparing people with nonhuman animals has been such a potent tool of the oppressors. The association between peasants and the farmed animals they worked became strong in ancient Greece with the development of the idea of the Great Chain of Being. Philosopher elites, having attained an education through their wealth, status, and leisure, declared themselves by virtue of their rationality to be the rulers of their irrational, natural subordinates: women, children, animals, and slaves.

The association between stupidity, body, labor, and animals continued well into the middle ages in which peasants were often denied equality on the basis of being subhuman animals. For instance, one Catal saying was that the peasant was "the animal who most closely resembles man." According to Paul Freedman:

[p]resenting peasants as animals functioned as a more compelling version of Aristotilian natural slavery—the idea that some people are by nature best fit for mindless toil and subordination. The version was more compelling because it avoided the question of reconciling natural slavery with fundamental (Christian) equality
Even in the wake of the Enlightenment, resentment toward the poor and working class continued. In his infamous Dissertation on the Poor Laws (1786), Joseph Townsend wrote on the virtues of hunger to "animals" and the poor alike:

Hunger will tame the fiercest animals, it will teach decency and civility, obedience and subjection, to the most perverse. In general it is only hunger which can spur and goad them [the poor] on to labor
Harriet Ritvo argues that, historically,  "[a]nimals were uniquely suitable for rhetoric that both celebrated human power and extended its sway, especially because [the English] concealed this theme at the same time they could express it…." In other words, the exploitation and cruelty to animals, both real and symbolically, has been a critical tool for enacting power over humans through the guise of celebrating human superiority.

Sue Coe. 1996. "Butcher of the World" in Dead Meat

4. The Great Butcher: The Political Ecology of Oppression
The leading animal rights scholar Gary Francione argues that the very minimal application of animal rights is the adoption of a vegan lifestyle. Perhaps this is why D'Amato and others are made uncomfortable by rights but not better treatment. Not surprising, in two of the three defenses of the article, readers appealed to the naturalness of human predation. One reader, Todd Chretien, comes to the odd and useless conclusion that "[political vegetarianism] is a dead-end. In fact, we should... advocate slaughtering as many cows and pigs as necessary in order to ensure" people are fed. Another, Amy Muldoon, founds her argument on faulty information and reasoning, arguing that humans *ought* to eat animals because it is part of their "nature", just as chickens getting eaten is part of theirs. Both these readers ignore that, according the American Dietetics Association, a vegan diet is not only sufficient but beneficial to nearly all humans' health.

In addition, they ignore that what Barbara Noske calls that the "Animal-Industrial-Complex" and Robert Martin calls the "agroindustrial-complex," produces world hunger by feeding approximately 40% of the world's grain and 90% of its soy, some of which is grown in countries struck by famine, to livestock thereby making it unaffordable to the people who are most in need. Dawn Moncreif has labeled meat-eating "overconsumption" because of the disproportionate resources it uses compared to foods lower on the food chain. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization's 2006 report, Livestock's Long Shadow, "[t]he livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."

Overconsumption and (gender, class, geographic) inequality, as we know, are not only related, they produce one another. That hierarchy within human societies is responsible not only for the domination of some humans over others but the domination over other beings as well is essentially the argument socialist Murray Bookchin made a half century ago. (Oddly, D'Amato marks the human capacity "to create a hierarchy of being... proof that there is a qualitative divide between human beings and other animals," yet is not compelled to criticize the creation of hierarchy) According to Jared Diamond, humans have only been able to successfully domesticate those species with social hierarchies. It was these hierarchies, especially the use of animals for draft work, writes Linda Kalof, that would enable and facilitate greater class hierarchy among humans.

Historically, the rise of hierarchy, class, and capital have similar origins in the ancient pastoral patriarchies. As Jim Mason has written, patriarchy and patrilinealism was facilitated in the fertile crescent through the equation of wealth, masculinity, and virility with possessing cattle and women. Carol Adams writes, "Meat is a symbol of male dominance... Gender inequality is built into the species inequality that meat-eating proclaims." Men, through the possession and control of cattle, a prestigious commodity, possessed power. The male-bias of cattle culture is evident within the greater division of labor between women and men than those of more plant-based economies, in addition to the greater restrictions and smaller portions of animal-based foods allocated to females in these societies. Adams bold assertion that "[p]eople with power have always eaten meat" is backed up by research in the social science.

Through control of cattle, men took control over women, both of whom were commodities to be exchanged. Later, as Paul Shepard notes, the first coins were imprinted with the heads of livestock:

Degradation of animals as being began long ago, however, as the first denominations of money were conceived in terms of the market value of animals. ‘Pecuniary,’ or money value, is derived from pecus, the word for cattle in ancient Rome. In Sumeria, sixty shekels equaled one manu, the amount carried by a donkey. A goat constituted five shekels, an ox twenty. Coins in Egypt and Greece were stamped with the heads of animals to indicate their value.
"Animals do not 'naturally' become private property," writes Jason Hribal, "no more than humans 'naturally' come to sell their labor. Rather, there is an active history here—one of expropriation, exploitation, and resistance." What we now use as the word for edible animal flesh, "meat," had several entomological roots prior to the 19th century: meat as a meal, meat as a monetary profit, and meat as a trade. The association of "meat" exclusively with mammal flesh was a product of its privileged place in English identity, its association with power, rationality, and masculine strength, as well as their associations with wealth.

Besides becoming not only the first major symbol of capital and instrument in the oppression of women as a class, livestock, as a form of capital, was also a significant facilitator of strife. Cattle as chattel contributed both to conflict between neighbors (before the invention of fences which would further institute the idea of property) as well as between nations. For instance, in Sanskrit 'to fight' meant 'to raid cattle' and 'leader' meant 'lord of cattle.' Jeremy Rifkin, Jared Diamond, and  Alfred Crosby have documented the role cattle have played in the "ecological imperialism" of Europe. At once, livestock drove the need to expand to new lands as overgrazing destroyed the original ones in addition to the desire to expand herds and increase wealth. Further, livestock transferred deadly biological agents that made ethnic cleansing all the easier, while simultaneously providing a food source to sustain themselves in a foreign land, whom are now responsible for the biocide of indigenous species.

More than anyone, Jeremy Rifkin has explored "the consciousness of Beef-Eating Cultures," which are based on a hierarchical structure of moral thinking. From the mystique of the frontier mentality which was enabled by the domestication and consumption of animals, developed a independent and competitive frontier market mentality. Over a century before corporations had developed brands, cattle were being branded in the West. Perhaps one of the most successful brands of all times, the golden arches of McDonald's, would not have been so successful if it were not for cattle. Of course, it was the hamburger in association with McDonald's that would come to symbolize the United States of America and its neo-imperialism.

Despite conservatives hatred of big government and taxes, they had no problem subsidizing grains to feed to cattle to provide the United States with cheap meat--cheaper than anywhere else in the world. In fact, the continual cries that the world needs to eat more meat is thoroughly ethnocentric, deriving from the colonizer and colonized beliefs that the power of European and American dominance came from their staple foods, meat and wheat. This has led to development programs that have privileged American-like consumption, close minded to the possibility that, as T. Collin Campbell discovered later, meat and dairy may actually cause the very diseases that they suspected insufficient meat created.

With the spread of McDonald's and an increasing number of middle-class who'd like to emulate Western capitalist consumption habits, so have indigenous foods begun to dissapear as sustenance crops become replaced by higher value cash crops to be exported to the global rich at the expense of local food insecurity. To go back full circle, we see the ever expanding herds of livestock the capitalist market promises to provide, an infinite amount of sea and animals in finite, vulnerable, and increasingly exhausted ecosystems. Already the production of animals for food constitutes 20% of the Earth's terrestrial animal biomass, uses 30% of Earth's land surface, has depleted nearly half the world's fisheries, destroyed 70% of the Amazon Rainforest, and been responsible for the destruction of many a mangrove forest and desertification of many a grassland. Yet, it is still politically incorrect to tell people to eat less animals, let alone not to eat any ever.

Though written over a century ago, Upton Sinclair's words have never rang truer about the plight of humans, the Earth, and animal others under Capitalism:

Greed, it was a monster devouring with a thousand  mouths, trampling with a thousand hoofs; it was the Great Butcher, it was the spirit of capitalism made flesh.
Sincair's poetic fancy has become a material reality. The hierarchy, exploitation, and violence must end if we are all to survive. If there is to be much hope, we must join in solidarity to run the Great Butcher out of business, and curtail financing the thousands of little ones.


Anonymous said...

Excellent response. D'Amato's unchecked cathexis for humans--for the idea of humans--is the stumbling block that AR people constantly face, and it's the most difficult to address. His reasoning is disturbing in that, while arguing for rights, he also argues in favor of the foundation of the status quo agenda.

Luella said...

"While slaughterhouse conditions have substantially improved"

What???? I haven't read The Jungle, but I have read an ethnography of a modern factory farm, so I dunno about that on the human side... I don't think you're talking about the other side.