The following post is the second one in a series regarding the non-violent approach in the animal rights movement. The first one addressed the myth behind it mostly from an historical perspective as this one is from a philosophical and ideological one.
A non-violent approach is actually a violent one, since besides a brief moral lecture, which each violent oppressor can choose to wave off at any time, it essentially grants violent oppressors with a full autonomy on the violence. They are basically free to choose who to hurt, when to hurt, how much to hurt and for how long. And that’s exactly what’s happening every time activists didn’t succeed in convincing the abusers to change their ways. Every animal rights persuasion attempt that doesn’t end with a new non-speciesist vegan, means letting another human continue with his/her systematic abuse.
Before we’ll further elaborate about the inherent violence and speciesism embodied in the very essence of the non-violent approach and in advocacy in general, we wish to avoid a possible misunderstanding regarding our theoretical perspective and practical suggestion (since we have already encountered creative interpretations of our massages).
So to make it clear, we don’t suggest sporadically killing animal abusers.
However, while sporadic killing is a terrible idea tactically, as it is absolutely unfeasible and extremely ineffective, it is at the same time theoretically absolutely morally justifiable.
Only speciesism, conformism, fixation and indoctrination can explain an objection to this theoretical moral stance and the ideological support in a non-violent approach.
For what we do suggest please read our Manifesto and What Can I Do.
The Anthropocentrism Inherent to Advocacy
Choosing to approach humans with rational arguments, emotional inciters and persuasion information, hoping to change their minds regarding the systematical violence they inflict on nonhumans, is accepting and reinforcing the concept that it is humans’ decision whether or not to change the way they treat nonhuman animals. It is declaring that it is their minds that count.
You can give them all the facts and show them all the evidences from factory farms, use every argument you know and deconstruct every excuse they throw, but it is still the abusers’ call. Letting the violent oppressors decide is supporting a power based and violent world, because it is humans ability to control the rest of the species that had put them in the place that it is seemingly their decision if to exploit the weaker or not. Isn’t it a violent standpoint to let the abusers choose whether to abuse or not?
The non-violent strategy refers to humans’ power and control as an obvious given. It is not trying to “dethrone” humans, but trying to convince “the masters” to change their treatment of their slaves. Human superiority should not be considered the inevitable starting point, and dethroning them should not be considered violent.
The fact that the animal rights activists’ natural tendency and the first and last plan of action, is to explain to humans that their daily torturing of the weaker for their own minor benefits, habits and pleasures is wrong, is itself wrong, violent and speciesist.
Unfortunately the orientation of the moral perspective within the movement is anthropocentric. For example, a very popular appeal towards humans is approaching them using arguments from their own interests such as personal health benefits, or by convincing them how easy and tasty veganism is. Seemingly on the other side, there are attempts to morally provoke humans, disgust or shock them. However, in their essence, despite a considerable difference in style, both are principally human oriented. Obviously not all of the approaches can be summed up to be either fawn or furious but all are essentially and utterly human oriented. “Just” giving humans the facts for them to decide is not less speciesist.
As opposed to this human oriented morality, in a victim oriented morality, it is much more intuitive to take them out of their prisons by all means necessary including setting up an armed militia. Obviously it is very complicated as you all know, and so there is no point elaborating about this option. The reason we mention it anyway is since it is important to show how even the viewpoint of animal liberation activists results from a very specific worldview which dictates a specific range of possible sorts of actions.
Claiming that options other than asking the abusers to stop abusing aren’t seriously discussed only due to their impracticality – is too easy.
The fact that most activists haven’t chosen non-violent advocacy after a thorough examination of the options, but it was rather self-evident that what must be done facing the greatest horror in history is to inform the abusers what they are responsible for, indicates how human oriented the moral scope is, and how bounded the discussion is. It reveals that what really bounds it, is not practical limitations, but immoral values regarding violence and regarding humanity.
Humans’, even activists’ intuition is anthropocentric. The fact that some activists wear an angry face when approaching non-vegans and demand them to change their ways while showing them the most horrible footages of institutionalized exploitation and telling them to their faces that they are cruel scumbags, is still accepting the suffering the non-convinced humans would inflict in the rest of their lives. It’s no different than the ones who smile all along the conversation and ask, almost beg to be listened to even just for a few minutes.
Many activists despise this approach which they see as an overly attentive if not obsequious. But it is not the level of ingratiation that matters but the principle. Smiling or shouting, both rely on humans’ willingness to change their violent habits. Both are putting the power to choose whether to abuse or not in humans hands. Both the smiling and the furious genre are in fact empowering the abusers by asking them to stop abusing. And when they refuse to change, both turn to the next person using the same sort of actions.
Our mission should end when the suffering does, not after we gave humans all the information we hold, pleaded all the arguments we know and deconstructed all of their excuses.
When activists have discovered what goes on in the world they live in, the first intuition facing the greatest horror ever in history was to hand out information leaflets in the streets and shout that animals have rights.
Even the most caring humans, who regularly challenge conventions, aren’t immune to the indoctrination they have absorbed their entire lives.
Our aim is to make activists internalize that giving humans the power to choose at animals’ expense is actually a violent approach – that this basic frame of thought is at least human oriented, if not speciesist.
Many activists, both those that tactically choose conciliatory “feel good” rhetoric, and those that use “provocative” animal holocaust terms, know the widely cited Isaac Bashevis Singer quote:
In his thoughts, Herman spoke a eulogy for the mouse who had shared a portion of her life with him and who, because of him, had left this earth “What do they know – all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world – about such as you? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”
If they truly believe that in their relation to nonhumans all humans are Nazis, why aren’t they all Partisan guerrilla fighters? The Partisans didn’t handout leaflets with footages of Auschwitz and the unbearable numbers of humans exterminated in the gas chambers.
If activists honestly think that meat eaters are serial killers and vegetarians are rapists, then by this same logic they’re accountable bystanders.
Even the relatively minor allegedly terror actions (minor compared with the enormous scale of the horror) that do occur, are directed mostly at laboratories, fur stores and slaughterhouses, while we all know very well that these specific torture facilities are the tip of the iceberg. It’s not the suppliers that are the problem, but the demanders. And the demanders are most of the human race. That’s why suggesting killing them one by one is ridiculous, and suggesting killing them all at once is essentialness.
Activists don’t pick the conventional way after a true examination of all the options. The conventional way is speciesist. It accepts humans’ tyranny, as if it is humans’ decision whether to hurt or not. It is their decision only because activists are asking them if they are willing to try rice milk instead of raping cows, and if they care to try soy burgers instead of corps of genetic freaks. But it shouldn’t be their choice. You don’t ask the tortures if they would like to stop torturing. You just stop them. Obviously stopping them one by one is absolutely impractical. That’s why we must look for a way to stop all of them at once.
Of course it is not easy as “just” stopping them, but it is what we’ve got to do. It begins with you realizing the absurdity. With you stop asking the oppressors to stop oppressing and start looking for a way to stop it all.
The Speciesism Inherent to Advocacy
The Inherent Speciesism of the Lack of Time Frame
Another reason why the non-violence approach is speciesist and violent, is that as far as the advocates go, it is a timeless effort, meaning until everybody is convinced, no matter how much suffering and violence is inflicted until then. The struggle has no timeframe or number of victims limit. Humans are given an everlasting chance to change on the animals’ expense and no matter how many of them would be sacrificed for the sake of “non-violence”.
Asking the victims to suffer patiently until activists find a way to the hearts of the rest of humanity, or in other words, arguing that the horror will end when humans decide it will end, is pure speciesism.
Giving the abusers unlimited opportunity to change while they keep their abusive routine is considering them as more important than all of their victims.
And given the average consumption figures of each human, each is worth thousands of animals. Average American meat eaters are responsible for the life of suffering of about 55,000 animals within their lifetime (data based on Countinganimals), including about 10,000 crustaceans, 1,860 chickens, 950 fishes, 55 turkeys, 30 pigs and sheeps, 8 cows and between 35,000 and 50,000 of non-directly consumed fishes and crustaceans who are either by catch or animals captured and killed to feed the directly consumed animals. And of course that is without counting the chickens suffering in the egg industry and cows in the milk industry. Morally opposing to stopping them, by all means necessary, including killing them, means they are worth more than the pain and suffering of all of these animals. What happened to Bentham’s “every one equals one and no one equals more than one”?
A considerable number of activists consider themselves as utilitarians in theory but in practice they weigh humans more than they weigh animals, and observe violence as absolute bad despite that as utilitarians they are not supposed to hold values, let alone absolute ones and most definitely not when the weighed sides are so extremely uneven.
The factor of time is even more violent and speciesist when you consider that It takes only 3 weeks for the number of animal victims to surpass the number of human victimizers and yet the option of human annihilation is viewed as immoral.
The Inherent Speciesism of the Revolution Scope
Not only the lack of timeframe is speciesist but also the revolution frame by the activists. The fact that it is humans’ world and will always be humans’ world is not challenged. Humans are the ones who would determine the scope of change. In the better scenario, they would shape the world based on their perspective, and in the worse one – according to their interests. In the worst but most realistic scenario they would never significantly change.
Even in the extremely far-fetched and delusionary optimistic scenario of a revolution in the way humans view nonhumans, the level and the scope of the change would be extremely human oriented. The whole human civilization is built upon a massive global occupation that continues to violently expand on the expense of all the other sentients on this planet.
Don’t get us wrong it’s not an argument from an ecological perspective but from an individual perspective. We argue that even in the imaginary future vegan world, since humans would still make all the calls, obviously the systematical mass violations of individuals’ rights by humanity, who maintain such a huge population with such an immense supporting infrastructure, would still constantly occur. The AR movement barely influences humanity’s diet so what are the chances to overturn the entire human civilization?
If a vegan world is unimaginable, then granting animals with rights is absolutely delusional.
And granting rights is in itself a power based, dominant and violent act. Only the powerful who could deprive them in the first place can hold the position of granting rights, and it is always the powerful who decide to what extent the rights are given. What are rights if not a forcible extension of a previous and even more forcible restriction of the freedom of others?
Furthermore rights are a very friable concept. They are so easily trampled upon, and in many cases aren’t able to provide the protection they claim to give. All it takes for them to be evaporated is that someone stronger wants something from a weaker someone. At the moment one human is attacked by another, the abstract concept of the right “for life, liberty, and personal security” won’t protect him or her. Entire lives of genuine rights holders are shattered in a couple of minutes just because a stronger person felt like it.
The Inherent Violence Of The Self-Defense Exception
Most of the non-violence advocates do justify using violence in cases like assault, rightfully arguing for self-defense.
However, isn’t that a little selfish to justify hurting someone in the name of self-defense but not in the name of defending someone else?
Why a woman that hurts the one who is trying to rape her is doubtlessly right, and will be considered a hero, but those who hurt an artificial inseminator or pigs castrator, aren’t?
The self-defense exception condemns all the ones who can’t defend themselves to a continuance suffering. Their suffering is obviously not less significant than the suffering of the ones who can defend themselves, and so deserve the same protection from violence regardless of their ability to fend for themselves.
None of the billions of animals born into an intensive system of exploitation and violence can fend for themselves. According to the non-violence theory they must find a way to somehow defended themselves or hold their breath until the tiny minority of humans who are trying to defend all of them, will succeed in convincing the vast majority. Does that seem like a moral scenario?
Philosophically Wrong and Optimistically Delusional
The nonviolence approach, probably unconsciously, relies on an inherently religious telos, whose secular form is manifested in the enlightenment narrative and the notion of progress, in which ‘the good’ or ‘the truth’ inevitably triumphs in the end and rationality will inevitably triumph over irrationality, if given enough time. Persist with this method and it will win in the end, the truth would inevitability be realized and therefore embraced by everyone.
The problem with this telos is that it is theoretically unprovable and practically entirely baseless. There is no guaranty that “the good” will overcome. There is nothing to support this notion other than the desperate need to believe in it.
Ironically the enlightenment movement, who stands for rationality and scientific examination, requires some premises that all lean on a belief system. The first one is that there is such a thing as the truth, the second is that we’ll know it is the truth when we’ll encounter it, and third that even if it exists and we could recognize it as such, that it will necessarily overcome.
Ironically none of the rationality movement premises can be proven rationally. They are all believes and there is no historical evidence to back any of them. What was once considered truth turned to be false and vice versa.
There is no reason to believe the “good” will win. It makes much more sense that what has happened so far will keep happening in the future, and that is that the interests of the powerful of each era would win.
The truth about what goes on inside factory farming was revealed long ago, and yet…
The rhetoric behind the non-violent approach also compels a concept of an historical progress, another fundamental notion of the enlightenment movement.
Arguing that progress has occurred throughout history, despite our severe factual disagreement, is theoretically a valid argument. This is as opposed to arguing that history is principally progressive and linear. But even if we agreed that factually, progress has occurred throughout history, it would be contingent, not fundamental. There is no reason to believe history is progressive by definition, no reason to assume that it is the natural and necessary order of things in the world.
But leaving hypothesis aside, observing history yet thinking in terms of progress is rather severely ignorant or extremely speciesist, since for the animals, things have only gotten worse. There is more suffering today than ever before in history, so if anything, the world is in decline in a linear direction. Even the progress argument itself is speciesist.
And even regarding humans only (as some draw inspiration from human struggles for the cause of nonhumans), the historical progress narrative is misleadingly simplistic. Oppression systems aren’t dissolved, they shape-shift and fit themselves to the current economic and social climate, and not uncommonly turn for the worse. Brief examples are the backlash of the 70’s and 80’s, new-conservatism, neoliberalism, the rise of mass consumerism, porn culture, the continuing gaps among race and class, followed by inventive new forms of oppression such as mass incarceration, the war on drugs, privatization, and the surveillance state. Many of these trends are interlinked with technological advances, widening and deepening existing oppressions. For example, today there are more slaves than ever before in history. This modern global system of human bondage is known to all, yet it hardly bothers those in the “affluence society” that are responsible for it.
Since the most horrific turn for the worst, both in terms of the extent of the exploitation, and the depth of the invasion into the bodies and minds of the victims, was done to nonhumans, asking the victims to hold on, assuming the goodness is bound to overcome, is grotesque.
Why is it so self-evident that humans should get to decide whether to keep abusing or not?
This is not about the intrinsically unfair and unjust power balance between humans and animals in itself. Obviously we would compromise on it, if there was a way not only to make all humans vegans, and make veganism non-violent, but also to make sure it would stay as such forever.
So far we have accomplished less than 2% of the first mission which is also the only one which is theoretically possible.
The saddest thing about the non-violence approach is that it is impossible even theoretically.
Everything in life is on someone else’s expense. No matter what and how little we consume, there is no way to avoid violence.
Even the most caring and compassionate, non-speciesist humans on this planet are bound to participate in a violent system, systematically hurting sentient beings they wholeheartedly believe they mustn’t.
There is no non-violent approach in this world. Not practically and not theoretically.
A vegan diet is not cruelty free, and it is not because of a specific way a specific product is being produced. It is all the ways that all of the products are produced which is harmful. The list of harms in the plant based diet is endless. Violence is inevitable.
For a more complete picture please read our article Vegan Suffering or read our next post about veganism as a none non-violent approach.
“Never doubt the ability of a small group…”
We doubt that if animals could, they would choose a non-violent approach. We doubt that the relative consensus around the non-violent approach would hold if it was activists who were industrially exploited, born in cages, tortured throughout their entire lives until being murdered.
This issue reveals how the AR movement, the only group representing the animals, is soaked in anthropocentric perspectives, talking and thinking in human’s terms. What else can explain the constant use of nonviolence as a relevant term while the most violent one-sided assault in the history of this planet is raging?
All the activists are aware of the fact that much more violence is inflicted in factory farms than the violence that would be required to overthrow the human tyrants. So why asking more than 150 billion victims per year to hold on until about 7 billion humans are convinced?
And how letting more than 150 billion victims per year wait, is less violent than looking for ways to eradicate 7 billion?
Even among the best humans, who are a small minority with the best intentions and willingness to challenge society, human privileges remain invisible (and as you know, the most dangerous and frustrating thing about invisible privileges is their denial). We are not naïve, we don’t expect that by pointing out the privileges they would be acknowledged. We don’t hold our breath for the majority of the AR movement to acknowledge the inherent anthropocentrism, speciesism and violence of advocacy.
We do turn to you, and to other very few dedicated activists out there to acknowledge it and adopt the only approach that can end all violence.