Sunday, January 25, 2015

Humans, Animals and Nature in the Crisis: On the need for an anti-capitalist critique of animal exploitation

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Saving banks, cutting welfare, de-democratisation. The measures taken to overcome the global economic crisis are the attempt to avert the collapse of the capitalist economic system. Yet there is no reason to save an economic system that is neither willing nor able to find solutions to the social and ecological catastrophes of our time. However, the exploitation of people and the destruction of natural foundations of life are not the only expressions of the destructive violence of capitalist society. The imprisonment of animals that is ever-present in our society, their merciless exploitation and seemingly perpetual slaughter are also linked inseparably to an economic system that is aimed solely at use and profit. Capitalism has to be abolished, not saved, if we want to put an end to this misery.

No hope for capitalism

The capitalist economy is crumbling. What is portrayed as a state debt crisis is actually a real global economic crisis, which emerged from the property and financial crises. The measures taken to deal with it are not aimed at rescuing national state economies, but are the attempt to prevent the collapse of the capitalist economy itself. Banks and companies are supported to the tune of hundreds of billions of Euros whilst many countries have been forced to implement massive cuts to their social security systems by the troika of the EU, IMF and the ECB. The impoverishment of large parts of the population is knowingly taken into account to create “competitiveness” and “credit worthiness”, which mean nothing other than upholding the conditions of capitalist exploitation. There is no good reason to leap to the rescue of an economic system that produces misery on a daily basis and ignores the needs of people and animals.

The so-called saviours of capitalism have proved that they are willing to defend the prevailing conditions to the bitter end. Social attacks in the form of wage reductions, privatisation and welfare cuts are all aimed at securing the interests of finance and recasting more and more areas of life along economic lines. These measures are accompanied by the dismantling of workers’ rights, the expansion of the security services and the militarisation of foreign policies, so that any resistance can be quelled before it erupts. These policies subject all social relations to the creed of profit-maximisation that cements the relations of violence between humans and animals.

Fukushima, climate change, industrialised animal murder: Nature domination in capitalism

In capitalist economics, animals, like nature in general, are merely commodities, means of production or resources that may be exploited. The domination of nature is the basis of human society – as humans need to produce in order to reproduce themselves, they have always needed to alter and use nature. But the establishment of capitalist production methods has triggered fatal dynamics that are literally murderous. Capitalist economics require not only competition but also permanent expansion in the form of advancing valorisation of all natural foundations for life.

Unbridled growth therefore necessarily results in not only social but also ecological crises. Fukushima, the global effects of climate change and the industrialised killing of animals are some examples of the devastating consequences of capitalist appropriation of nature. A critique of the systematic destruction of nature is expressed by the social struggles of environment movements, e.g. against coal-fired power stations, or genetic engineering. Protest movements against the privatisation of water or against land-grabbing are also fighting for a collective and sustainable use of nature based on need and against the profit-orientated destruction of capital.

The destruction of nature and with it the destruction of the basis of human society are immediate consequences of production relations that do not serve our needs but those of capitalist accumulation. That fact that capitalist appropriation of nature does not follow the principles of sustainability, conservation or care is not the result of “environmentally unfriendly attitudes” but is actually the logical consequence of turning nature into capital.

Factory farms, vivisection labs, slaughterhouses: Animals as victims of capitalist nature domination

Animals are the main victims of nature domination. Considered to be nature, they are encaged and murdered in their billions, so their labour power can be exploited and their dead bodies exchanged as commodities. Animals are systematically made victims of socially organised violence. Their bodies suffer injuries en masse – in slaughterhouses, laboratories, or on factory farms. A liberated society that really intends to overcome all relations based on exploitation or servitude cannot ignore animals. No victim of socially-caused violence is a legitimate one. With our current state of productive forces – the technological and social possibilities at our disposal – there is no need for violence against animals.

The exploitation of animals is legitimised backed up by a complex ideology which has come to be known as speciesism. This means a way of thinking about animals that results from the supposed necessity of their exploitation. A type of false consciousness about animals, speciesism helps make the exploitation of animals seem to be natural and unchangeable, obscuring the historical development and social creation of the exploitation. This obscuring of human domination of animals is expressed in various ways: From the retort that “it’s always been this way, it can’t be changed.”, the trivialisation of violence against animals and the playing-down of any criticism of animal exploitation to attempts to deny animals any consciousness, sentience or individuality. The idea that animals can be used legitimately by people must be countered with a critique that refutes the myths of animal exploitation. Animals are not there for people, people have appropriated their bodies and their labour power by force! Animals cannot be kept “humanely”, any form of exploitation – whether in free-range or factory farms – is against their needs and interests. It is not the meaning of animal lives to land on a plate! Animals are not something, they are someone! Current human-animal relations are the result of human actions and are historic. Therefore they can also be changed by humans!

The fact that animals are not recognised as being victim to social relations of exploitation and domination cements their catastrophic situation. Largely ignored, the system of industrial and institutionalized murder of animals carries on. The slaughterhouse can be taken as a place where capitalist principles of production are realised. Under enormous time pressure, animals are killed almost by the second, after being fattened up to their maximum weight. Fully technically rationalised, animals’ bodies are sectioned and processed. Even the smallest scraps of flesh are used to generate capital. The meat industry’s path to big business is strewn with corpses. The human side of meat production also has its victims: abattoir workers on minimum wages labour under precarious conditions and at constant risk to their health. This show how humans and animals necessarily fall victim to exploitation under the rule of capitalism.

End capitalism and animal exploitation: Together against all domination

If social relations are to be guided by principles other than just maximising profit, all people must be able to participate in those areas of life that concern them. Overcoming economic relations of dependence is the basis of participatory processes of negotiation in which the needs of animals as well as all humans can be considered. The authoritarian politics of the crisis regimes throughout Europe are the opposite of any sort of freer society. Therefore it is not only necessary to show active resistance against these world-wide de-democratizing processes, but also to fight to regain the control over our own lives.

The immediate collectivisation of key industries like the finance industry, housing and not least food production is needed in order to stop the blind destruction of capitalist exploitation interests. The expropriation of agro-companies could be a first step to overcoming the current order in the areas of production and distribution of food, in which property rights and profit interests of concerns have more value than social and ecological justice. There is no right to profit, especially when it means that through completely destructive technologies and farming methods, people die of hunger and animals die in abattoirs. It’s not private economic appropriation of social wealth by companies, but the participation of people in decision-making processes that are actually democratic that could put an end to the daily barbarity of capitalism.

The exploitation of animals is part of this barbarity. Criticism of animal exploitation must not just limit itself to particular forms or areas of violence against animals. Violence itself must be at the centre of this criticism because there is no use of animals that doesn’t involve violence; there is no violence that is better or worse. Anyone who really wants to fight against animal exploitation cannot use animals for their own purposes. Anyone who wants to act in solidarity with animals has to be vegan, because violence against animals is not a private matter! Of course there could still be violence against animals in a non-capitalist society, but only that sort of society offers any basis for realising the social project of animal liberation.

One thing is clear: single political movements will not be able to do away with capitalism by themselves. Social struggles can only be successful when they don’t remain constricted to single issues, but instead aim to deprive the various relations of domination and oppression their mutual economic basis. The unified resistance against de-democratizing processes, as well as the reclamation and socialisation of central areas of life is a concrete perspective for various political movements to be able to overcome their organisational individualisation and to follow shared goals and strategies.

So let’s not lose any time and create a strong resistance against the attempts to rescue an economic system that is only geared towards exploitation and is not based around needs. Every day in which people are in servitude, animals are taken to the slaughterhouse and the natural resources are depleted is barbaric in the face of the possibilities of the here and now: Creating a society beyond the production of commodities, exploitation and oppression.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jason Hammond Sentencing Statement

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I write this statement after pleading guilty to state charges against me for my participation in an organized direct action taken against a group of white supremacists in May of 2012. I would like to share my thoughts about this action. First, major thanks and love to my friends and family who have supported me, for my amazing partner who kept me sane, my band for letting loose and my lawyer Sara Garber who has been ridiculously helpful in fighting this case with me.

While Chicago was in rebellion against the western military super-alliance NATO summit in 2012, a small group of racists organized their own ‘white nationalist economic summit' in the nearby suburb of Tinley Park. They booked a restaurant to hold a luncheon under the guise of the "Illinois European Heritage Association.” For over six months this event was promoted on, a very popular online forum where racists and neo-nazis converse. Being in a prolonged state of resistance against racism, this summit became known to organized anti-fascists throughout the Midwest. Through research, they had ascertained the time, location, and even some identities of the attendees of this meeting, some of whom were already known as being members of white supremacist groups such as the KKK, National Socialist Movement and Council of Conservative Citizens. Upon becoming aware of this  information, myself and others decided to confront the fascists at their meeting. A righteous melee ensued, many of the ten white supremacists were injured, and we left the scene in less than two minutes.

In the aftermath, the police was called and two of the fascist attendees were arrested one for being a fugitive of pedophilia charges in another state and the other for illegal possession of firearms in their car onsite. Unfortunately after leaving the restaurant, five comrades from Hoosier Anti Racist Movement were also arrested for their involvement by an off duty cop. They are known as the Tinley Park 5, all of whom spent time in Illinois prisons after taking a non-cooperative plea, and have since been released on parole. Please read about their struggles at their wordpress.

A year after the action, in July 2013, I was arrested outside my home by the FBI and Tinley Park Police. I was charged with armed violence and mob action,  the same as the other 5 anti-fascists. My indictment states the Tinley Park Police were given a report from the FBI stating that they had identified me from DNA gathered at the scene and a surveillance video from the restaurant where the meeting was shut down. I was held in Cook County Jail for two months but was fortunate to have friends who raised enough money to release me on bond. I have since been fighting these charges. The wheels of the bureaucratic judicial system moves deliberately slow and another whole year and a half passes. Now, even with the privilege of being able to examine all the evidence and evaluate all of my options while out on bond, I must accept the judge’s offer of 3.5 years. My chances of winning the case were very low, and if I lost, it could potentially mean a significantly higher sentence.

It is difficult to decide whether to plea or not when faced with gambling years of your life in prison, but I also completely detest the narrative of the state and their courtrooms. Their story is that they rightfully apprehended the criminal, tried, and put them away in prison;where they will learn not to do it again while separated from society where they cannot spread their infectious ideas. That system does not work and it never will. I abhor this monopoly of justice and violence; the reality is that the state wants people in their prisons especially people whose political interest are in conflict  to the “business as usual” violence that their police and armies perpetrate. My crime is standing up against the flag of hate and the violence against people of color that it represents. The state, in a petty act, went out of their way years later to prosecute me.

Furthermore, the state has always supported a white supremacist power structure. Even after the endless series of racist wars and hundreds of years of oppression on this soil, they don't see it as a problem when neo-nazis get together and in fact grant permits and have lines of police to protect their free speech. In Ferguson, New York, Chicago and beyond, we see police use military grade equipment in conjunction with the National Guard to combat people protesting the unjust murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of law enforcement. These are not isolated incidents, but rather symptomatic and indicative of a deliberate move to uphold the pillars of white supremacy in this country, which will not change unless we fight against it.

I went into this action following the principles of anarchy, equality and freedom which have guided my life. For many years I have been involved in different projects engaging social justice, from volunteering at social centers, community public libraries and food distribution programs.I have also supported and participated in anti-war, environmental and immigrant rights movements. Through these experiences I became more aware of how the system that governs this society depends on the mass exploitation of large parts of the population and in fact the Earth itself for the profit of the rich and powerful. I was inspired and motivated by the people I met in the movement to strive to make change at the root of the problem, even if it meant possibly sacrificing my own personal freedom. Throughout history, any movement that struggled to change this system was considered dangerous by the government and was met with immense repression and state violence. But there were successful moments within these movements not only because they were justified, but because people fought for them and despite how history is presented like a Disney movie, not all of their actions were non-violent.

Today there still is police brutality, a massive prison industrial complex, there are presidents waging endless wars for profit and power, and there is violence, alienation and marginalization at the crossroads of gender, sexuality, race and class.  It would be naive to think that all of these problems could only be solved through pacifism; working with or within the system, following dogmatic and assimilative reformist agendas that take over and sell out movements; the answer lies in creative resistance that utilizes a wide diversity of tactics. I think some people have always known this but more need to reject the privileged tendency to reject destruction of property, or of the bodies protecting the state as taboo violence instead of as a legitimate form of resistance. As our collective patience is constantly being worn away by failures of government to address people’s actual needs, it is up to our own communities and individuals to decide for themselves what is an appropriate form of self-defense

But I would also like to note that the hyper-spectacularization and priority of violence amongst folks in the movement might also be folly, because I believe it in itself is not sufficient for a real radical transformation of society. People need to look within to make the change they want to see in the world as well as raise hell in the streets. People are improving their communities through their own support, healing circles, discussion groups, rallies, speak-outs, prisoner support, popular education, community health projects and asking hard questions and challenging oppressive thoughts however they manifest.

The ideas and actions that these white supremacists are pushing are dangerous and poisonous and is unfortunately still deeply rooted within the fabric of this society. Racism manifests itself in a number of ways and none can be ignored; from the blatant and overt bigots like those at the meeting in Tinley Park but also the subtle micro-aggressions that people experience on a daily basis. We are all obligated to confront the dead old ways of these oppressive ideologies using every means possible. My actions were in the spirit of continued resistance against racism and fascism and for the rights of people to live without fear of racist attacks. Those in struggle know the risk of jail, pain or death when trying to radically change the structure of society but it is a struggle we cannot ignore and we intend to win! 

After the interruption of the meeting in Tinley Park, the organizing group for their economic summit disbanded and the individual who booked the event said that they were “stepping away from white nationalist organizing.” When a comrade is arrested the movement bears a high cost but actions like these can prove affective as they dissuade people from joining hate groups and preventing the work that they do. I feel these tactics could also apply to different avenues of struggle, directed towards exploitative bosses, racist cops, gentrifying landlords, sexists anywhere, and fascist politicians. 

Some people have speculated my arrest was part of some revenge plot of the FBI because of the hacking and whistle-blowing my brother Jeremy Hammond has done against various sectors of the government and the private intelligent corporations they work with. While I love and support my brother and his actions 1000% and condemn the FBI and the US government for their own cyber wars they wage, I think it is unlikely that was the reason why I was held in custody. As stated earlier, the FBI did provide a report to the local police putting some of their pieces together which raises questions to why they would consider a bunch of neo-nazis getting beat up a matter of national security. Regardless, my brother and I were both apprehended because our actions were not carried out with absolute precision and every precaution made to disguise our identities and ensure we would not be busted.

However, it is absolutely true that we live in a vulnerable society with extreme governmental overreach, where anyone could be subject to surveillance, entrapment, targeted prosecutions and trumped up treason and terrorism charges purely for ideological reasons. It is a context deliberately cooked up by politicians and the national security complex to create fear and distrust amongst activist circles, as we can see looking at the huge number of dissidents who have been jailed or killed. Again, I’ll state my respect for political prisoners in any country who are staying strong and struggling to fight the power. I would encourage anyone who considers taking direct action to know why they are doing it and do so carefully as to not jeopardize themselves, their comrades, or the movement itself. A person in prison is another person we have to free.

       To those whose worlds were shaken and who are angry or displeased at my actions, remind yourselves humbly of the atrocious history of violence that white supremacy has done and continues to do so to this  society and ask yourself, do I support it? Do I benefit from it? Will this be my legacy? Or do I want to change it?

         I have set up a blog where I will post updates regularly that will also include my mailing address and visiting hours. Also I will have set up an Amazon Wish List where people can send me some love through books. This will be set up once I arrive at the state prison where I will likely carry out the majority of my sentence. While I am here I intend to make the most of my time staying positive and motivated through reading, working out, and meditating. I am interested in continuing communication and having discussions with people through letters, so please write me when you have the chance!

Yours for the struggle!

With love and rage,
Jason Hammond

Monday, January 5, 2015

"Decolonizing The Diet: Towards an Indigenous Veganism" downloadable PDF literature

Decolonizing The Diet: Towards an Indigenous Veganism...Unlearning to Relearn

In the age of decolonization and decolonizing pedagogy, students from the Comparative History of Ideas course, “Decolonizing the Diet: Towards an Indigenous Veganism” at the University of Washington have created a cyber class zine to share with our larger communities the knowledge learned, shared, and reflected on from the course readings and in class dialogue, interviews with Native Chefs, written reflections, and meals prepared and eaten which speak to and provide methods towards Decolonizing the Diet, while reclaiming and cultivating an Indigenous Veganism.

This PDF booklet can be found here for online reading or download

Sunday, January 4, 2015

8 reasons why meat-eating anarchists need a kick up their anthropocentric arses

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1. Anarchism impoverished

Anarchism, for me, is struggle against all forms of domination. It is a beautifully simple idea that helps call into question every oppressive norm.

But our relationships of subjugation with billions of other species on the earth is one norm that few seem to take issue with; not only are other species unable to communicate their experience to us, but to question means to challenge entrenched habits and world views. If we want to be consistent in our politics, then there’s no way we can continue to ignore the impact our anthropocentricism (human-centeredness) is having on the rest of this planet.

Yet, just because most of us are implicated does not mean that we are burdened with some kind of ‘original sin’. Quite the contrary: the beauty and power of anarchism is that it pushes us all to live lives that are more just, loving, meaningful, satisfying, and collectively free. So when we talk about speciesism, far from being dismissive, we should embrace the challenge it poses, look further into the issue, and do what we can to change the miserable status quo.

2. Alienation from the land

Through civilisation and conquest, insatiable capitalist cultures have alienated most of the world’s population from the ecologies which have been our species’ life support systems throughout its existence. This in turn has desensitised us from the mass enslavement of swathes of non-human lifeforms to the service of humans and capital. Yet, since this alienation is all that many of us city-dwellers have ever known, we do not really appreciate what is being lost. If this rings true for you, then spend some quality time with other animals; look at what they do, how they interact with one another. Read about the taming of the wilderness for capitalist expansion, and learn about the key role animal agriculture plays in transforming vibrant woodland into the monocultural fields that constitute our countryside today.

3. Animals are at the bottom of the dung heap

The sheer scale, intensity, and normalisation of animal exploitation and suffering is greater than that of any of our species. If you don’t agree, (so it sort of goes), you just aren’t paying attention. Hundreds if not thousands of entire species have been enslaved to capitalism, being imprisoned, manipulated, selectively bred, experimented on, used as reproductive machines & killed for our satisfaction, profit, and entertainment.

Each year, around 1,000 million animals are farmed and killed in the UK for ‘food’, while over the same period the equivalent of 86 million chickens are thrown away uneaten. In life, the vast majority of chickens are crammed into sheds with complete disregard for their needs or desires as living creatures, before being killed at 6-7 weeks (naturally, they live for around 7 years). Selective breeding of meaty birds means they’re unable to support their own weight and spend 76%-86% of their time lying down; death from thirst or hunger comes to many. Soiled litter solidifies around their legs producing painful ulcers. In the case of egg-laying hens, the majority kept in cages, the intense stress of their short, miserable lives can lead to self-harm and cannibalism, so many have their beaks cut – without anesthetic – to reduce this risk. Whereas their wild ancestors laid 12-20 eggs per year, human enslavement has produced a modern reproductive machine that lays up to 300 eggs for our pleasure and profit annually. This is to say nothing of the dairy, pork, beef or fish-farming industries. Those animals are not going to be able to tweet about their misery (there is as yet no evidence that pigs are daft enough to while away their time on social media): go read up on it yourself.

Meanwhile, each year nearly 4 million animals in the UK alone are subjected to ‘research’ in the name of science; experiments to test new products like medicines and chemicals (cleaners, plastics, pesticides, food additives etc.), and military trials. The most prestigious UK universities continue to cage and experiment on the same animals for many years on end. These include depraved invasive experiments that physically and psychologically manipulate primates (eg. implanting electrodes into their skulls, removing parts of their brains, studying the effects of deliberately inflicted stress and pain, and so on).

On top of their uses for ‘food’ and ‘science’, there’s the breeding of pets for human pleasure (thousands of which are subsequently held in UK shelters at any one point after being taken from mostly incompetent ‘owners’), and the use of animals to make money in a host of other industries (racing, zoos, circuses etc.).

4. Defensiveness maintains domination

All systems of oppression are supported by defensive attitudes, justifications, trivialisation and denial. Sometimes these claims might be fair enough, but people more often than not simply react to feeling attacked and respond from a selfish position of self-preservation. An anarchist ethic should stem from a desire for individual and collective liberation, so I like to think that when a comrade challenges my behaviour, I put my wounded pride aside for a moment and at least give the point the consideration it deserves.

Yet time and again issues raised around speciesism are mocked, trivialised and dismissed, which is both a massive disrespect to other animals and to those comrades. Ok, so this isn’t helped by the puritannical vegans out there who guilt-trip those who eat the occasional skipped cheese sandwich, but only the laziest and least committed comrade can attribute their crap, anthropocentric attitudes to encounters with the Vegan Police.

5. Animal abuse is inseparable from patriarchy

For me, animal abuse is on the same spectrum as misogyny, homophobia, racism, and the abuse of children, the elderly or disabled. Claims that these analogies are racist/sexist/ableist only underscores the inherent speciesism of such a position, for how can we make exceptions for other sentient beings? The basic principles are there: violence perpetrated for pleasure or gain by ‘strong’ against the ‘weak’.

In one suburban family home, a woman is threatened by a male fist; somewhere in another, a pet hamster gets flushed down the loo: both are worthless rubbish in the eyes of those who wield relationships of possession over them. In the toilets of a hipster bar, a Siamese Fighting Fish lies lifeless and numb on the gravelly bottom of its barren tank; in Croydon, an Afghan refugee friend waits for years on end for word from miserly Home Office bureaucrats: both reduced to mere numbers and objects by those with money in mind.

How can anyone fail see these issues as essentially one and the same, or reject one and justify another?

In 1901, anarchist Elisée Reclus described how as a young man he struggled against almost overwhelming pressure for conformity against his vegetarian ways, “parents, official and informal educators, and doctors, not to mention that all-powerful person referred to as “everybody”, all work together to harden the character of the child in relation to this “meat on feet”…”[1]. Over a century later, the culture of meat & dairy consumption is still maintained by ridicule and social pressure. It is especially bound up in machismo (e.g. you’re a bourgeois wuss if you can’t handle a bit of liver), and marketing that exploits masculine insecurities, even though 99% of such macho posturing revolves around meat pathetically acquired from the likes of Tescos, rather than from creatures that have been hunted (see Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat for an in-depth discussion on this). If you want to prove yourself an adept hunter, I can think of much better targets than wild boar.

6. Veganism isn’t a middle class ‘consumer choice’

It might sound trite, but for many ‘ethical vegans’, veganism really is a philosophy rather than just a dietary choice. Challenging how we think of animals as products and producers for our pleasure, questioning the ‘necessity’ or inevitability of animal consumption, and varying our diet beyond animal sources is just one part of that, but there are many ways to subvert our relationships with other animals – from fighting the culture of pet breeding, to carrying out acts of liberation & sabotage. In fact, a definition of veganism coined by Vegan Society co-founder Donald Watson, was the notion that animals should simply be free from exploitation and cruelty. This removes some of the emphasis on consumer choices, as favoured by green capitalists & liberals. Too often, critics hone in on hipster vegan cupcake shops or fancy fake cheeses, glibly equating all veganism with shallow ethical consumerism or a bourgeois fad. But where there appears to be a market, we can always expect some corporation to cash in on it (H&M’s recent rip-off of the Kurdish YPJ’s uniform springs to mind as an example). It’s also disingenuous to claim it’s a ‘class privilege’ to eat a plant-based diet – if anything it’s cheaper if you’re not going in for fake meat and dairy substitutes. The irony about these claims is that that the animal rights/liberation movement in the UK is significantly more working class and less dominated by academics than my experience of other major ‘single issue’ movements in the UK at present. Class-based critiques of veganism from feminists with PhDs says more about themselves and where they spend their time than anything else.

There are obviously some people who can’t avoid consuming animals because conditions make it unviable (eg. destitution, certain illnesses, migrants in transit, desert-dwelling peoples…you get the picture); the point is to do what we can because we at least reject speciesism as we should any other system of domination. Unfortunately, many of us are not even there yet.

Attempts to carve out an ethical way of life under capitalism and the state inevitability tend to feel hollow. So what’s the point of changing our individual practices now? Well, apart from the obvious problem that mass insurrection still seems a distant prospect, consistency in our ideas and our actions gives us lives worth fighting for. The existence of relationships based on love, solidarity and respect spare us from unrelenting misery of life under capitalism and compel us to attack the systems which threaten them. Without the inspiring examples of my comrades around the world, I would be tempted with total resignation. Challenging ourselves and each other to question domination in all its guises builds on that affinity and breaks down isolation. Anarchy cannot be perpetually postponed; to whatever extent possible it must be lived in the present.

If respecting non-human life is neglible “lifestylism” as some suggest, then we should see treating our partners with respect (e.g. not abusing them) in the same light. I’m under no illusions about the capacity for veganism to create revolutionary change, but that is as true as for any ‘lifestyle choices': we can’t just content ourselves with changing the way we live & treat each other – we always need to combine this with attack on the structures of power.

7. Veganism is not ‘cultural imperialism’

The basic principles underlying veganism are by no means ‘Western’ (in the sense of a product of ‘Enlightenment’ thought originating in Western Europe); if anything, as capitalist land expropriation first wreaked havoc in that part of the world, quite the opposite is true. Through a close relationship with plants and animals, often amplified by animist beliefs, many indigenous peoples maintain healthier relations with the animals around them – to the point of exaggeration and romanticised cliché. The fact that some prominent English-speaking liberals began to spout loudly about animal welfare in the 19th century does not give the ‘West’ a monopoly on respecting animal life. In fact, some of the discourses in which these were embedded (particularly, seeking a scientific rationale for animal welfare), were more problematic than the practices of indigenous peoples who engaged in hunting for their food, but never sought to enslave the animals in the first place.

There have nevertheless been some overtly racist campaigns from the charity PETA, or imperialist – and frankly ridiculous – concepts such as ‘World Week for the Abolition of Meat’. But just as the existence of liberal feminist charities makes few of us dismiss feminism altogether, this is hardly basis for claims that veganism is inherently ‘Western’ or imperialist. Such an attitude is also patronising and dismissive of the many people and cultures that avoid meat and dairy for spiritual and ethical reasons, either for most of the year or altogether.

Lastly, animal farming goes hand in hand with the continued dispossesion of people from the land. It requires huge quantities of land for production of animal food; this true for both the ‘free range’ animals grazing on pastures and for those eating feed in dark animal factories. By contrast, significantly more people can be sustained on a given piece of land on a plant-based diet than on livestock, which is also far more water intensive. Land grabs from cattle ranching in South America have been a major driver of landlessness of the poor and of destruction of indigenous peoples’ lands and cultures. Arable land is both scarce and poorly distributed; we need to make major changes in our relationships with it if we are to cope with massive population rises whilst resisting unethical practices such as the expansion of human sterilisation programmes or major incursions into what pockets of wilderness remain.

8. Carnivorous appetites mean ecocide

Animal agriculture means habitat loss for wild animals and the precipitation of climate change. The world’s forests, for example, have roughly halved in the past 30 years [2]. Animal agriculture has been a major driver of this, especially in regions like the Amazon, which is both the source of rich biodiversity and approximately 20% of the world’s oxygen output. As anarchists we need to stop supporting the breeding of other living beings and the reproduction of destructive relations with the land – not just as an end in itself, but as one tactic among many in the fight against the immiseration of the earth.

In a world beyond capitalism, neither animal agriculture nor hunting are going to be viable means of survival on a wide scale. The continued breeding and rearing of animals, ethical implications aside, will be unfeasible for many communities due to the intense land and water requirements that it entails. The romantic hunter fantasy of the millenarian primitivists, more ethical on the surface, harks back to an era when the land was carpeted with verdant forests and human was at one with beast. Unfortunately, the post-industrial landscape we are going to be left with is likely to be very different to the forests and steppes we roamed prior to the growth of civilisation. What little wildlife remains will be relegated to the margins and no doubt threatened with extinction by human hunters. Although hunting skills may be useful for individuals in emergencies, it is not a collective solution and will ultimately be suicidal if we see it as such.


[1] Elisée Reclus, On Vegetarianism (1901) in Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: selected writings of Elisee Reclus

[2] Franz J. Broswimmer, Ecocide (2002)

See also From Animals to Anarchism by Dysophia for more on the topic and a good reading list.