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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Anarcha-feminism and Animal Liberation

"Meat is like pornography  - before it was someone's' fun, it was someone's
life" Melinda Vales 

Lots of anarchists find the idea of animal rights quite dodgy. 
Quaranteeing "legal" rights to animals sounds pretty useless given the
amount of notice the state takes of human rights. Intellectual dudes like
Peter Singer focus more on allowing moral considerations to animals, based
on their similarity to humans.  But what about the bigger picture? 
Anarcha-feminists who are into animal liberation link male domination and
exploitation of animals with the male domination and exploitation of women.
It's about breaking down the divisions - male/female, rich/poor,
black/white ... animal/human.  We want the self-determination of both
animals and humans. 

Hunting and eating animals is traditionally done by the boys.  Dead animals
and women are objectified in similar ways.  TV, magazines, and video fames
sell us funky fantasy images of happy cartoon chickens (like the one at Big
Fresh) and airbrushed anorexic women, targeted at male consumers. Women are
called cows, chicks, birds, vixen - domestic and game animals.  If men are
compared to animals they are wolves, bears or stallions.  Lots of  women
are kept in suburban homes like battery hens or pigs - continually
pregnant, bored, depressed. 

As well as being a massive torture industry, vivisection is another way of
objectifying animals.  Lots of experiments, such as the Draize test destroy
the animals' eyes, turning them into objects who can't return the male
gaze.  Women and animals are experimented on without their consent by male
doctors.  Caesarean section is the standard way lab animals give birth, as
it used to be for women.  

Lots of pornography portrays women as animals.  Look at "Adult
Entertainment" (ironically next to "Pets and Livestock") in the Evening
Post - ads like "Cuddly bunny especially for you".  Meat-based recipes are
also advertised in sexual terms "Hot Stuff".  The whips and chains of 
bondage imagery is based on gear for breaking in horses.  Lots of men who
abuse women start off abusing pet animals. 

Is there a problem in supporting both animal rights and pro-choice? I feel
these movements have a lot in common: 1) both focus on life and
self-determination of the individual woman and animals 2) both women and
farm animals are forced into unwanted pregnancies 3) the anti-abortion
movement romanticises motherhood in just the same way that the meat
industry romanticises farm animals.  Abortion in early pregnancy isn't
murder in the same case killing animals is - medical evidence suggests
foetuses can't feel pain before the seventh month of gestation. 

Does animal liberation ignore race and class issues?  It's true that most
of the Animal Rights movement is a whiter shade of pale.  However,
indigenous peoples tend to be objectified as animals to be consumed in just
the same way women are.  People of colour and animals are both overworked,
marginalised, and economically exploited.  The same power structures
oppress both.  Defending animals and fighting racism is part of the same
struggle. 

I want to mention possums because they cause a lot of damage in Aotearoa. 
Do we need to murder possums to save indigenous trees and birds?  This has
worried me quiet a lot.  However, Pakeha bought possums into Aotearoa -
this is a Pakeha problem, not a possum problem.  It is up to pakeha to find
a solution that doesn't oppress possums.  The destruction of bush by
possums is minimal compared to that destroyed by Pakeha for farmland or
timber.  Rather than murdering possums, we need to focus on stopping
further bush being cleared for profit, and on keeping existing possum-free
areas of bush possum-free. 

It's interesting that both anarcha-feminism and the animal rights movement
are based around direct action tactics.  Both aim to destroy the existing
systems and practices rather than reform them -ie. no veal calves rather
than better conditions for veal calves - no laws rather than better laws. 
The liberation and self-determination of animals and people is thus
inseparable -"Merely by ceasing to eat meat, merely by practising restraint
we have the power to end a painful industry"- Roberta Katechofsky 

I'd really recommend the following books: 

(i)Carol J Adams "Neither man nor Beast: feminism and the defense of
animals" 

(ii)Vandana Shiva and Maria Miles "Ecofeminism" 

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